A lackluster start looked as though it might be enough to cost the JV Cougar boys, but the basketball squad refused to go down, battling back to defeat Mountain House 58-51 on Jan. 26.
In their only game of the week, the host JV Cougars let the visiting Mustangs gallop to a 21-10 first quarter lead. The teams were more evenly matched in the second, Mountain House outscoring Escalon 7-6, with the visitors holding what appeared to be an almost insurmountable 28-16 lead at the half.
“I think I lost five years off my life coaching that game,” admitted coach Nate Bartelink. “It was unreal. We had turnovers left and right, we were just very careless with the ball.”
Turnovers and sloppy play in the first half, both uncharacteristic of the Cougars, gave Mountain House the edge. The host JV squad committed 19 turnovers in the first half.
During the break, Bartelink said his team got quite an earful.
“They heard from me,” the coach agreed. “There was so much at stake and I give them credit, they figured it out.”
After Mountain House sank the first bucket of the third quarter to extend their lead to 30-16, the Cougars did a 180 and took the contest back into their own hands.
“They responded, they went on a 15-0 run to take the lead by one (31-30); they turned it around,” Bartelink said.
The home crowd got back into it as well, as the JV squad steadily closed the gap against the Mustangs and then eventually took the lead. They outscored Mountain House 22-6 in the third quarter, leading 38-34 after three and held off the Mustangs with a 20-17 run in the fourth. That gave the JV boys the seven-point margin of victory, raising their Trans-Valley League mark to 5-1 for the first round in league play and putting them at the top of the standings, tied with Ripon.
“We had a great second half,” Bartelink said of the Tuesday game, proud of the resiliency and determination of his young players.
Having a career night with a season high 26 points and 11 rebounds was Estephan Salcedo, leading the way for the Cougars.
“He was 10-for-11 in field goals, 6-for-10 from the free throw line,” noted Bartelink. “Sahil Prasad and Max Nicholas each had nine points, Steven Grossi had eight.”
The coach added that a challenge put out to his players was taken to heart, as he indicated at halftime that the players working the hardest and making the best decisions would be on the court.
“The starting five took control,” he said.
On the down side, Bartelink said he wasn’t able to get as many players rotated into the game as he wanted, but on the bright side, his starting five got into a rhythm that he didn’t want to disturb. Salcedo, Prasad, Grossi, Nicholas and Elliott Mello – the team’s defensive leader – came together and took control of the contest, putting away the visitors.
“It was a satisfying win,” Bartelink said.
The JV boys were slated to start second round TVL action hosting Riverbank on Feb. 2 after The Times went to press and host Ripon on Friday night, Feb. 5 with a 6 p.m. tip off time.