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Tough Campaign Comes To Close For Varsity Cougars
Mello Var
Senior Elliott Mello, 5, sends off the lay-up attempt against a Hilmar defender in Thursday night action at home, an evening that featured recognition for all seniors on the varsity basketball team. Marg Jackson/The Times

Three games over four nights capped off the season for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys.

All three went in the loss column, which left the Cougars with no victories in Trans-Valley League play this season. With the two road losses and one at home, they ended the campaign with an 0-12 mark in league.

They opened up the week on the road at Hughson, falling 67-57 in the Tuesday, Feb. 6 contest.

Hughson opened up with a 22-3 run in the first quarter and extended their lead to 39-16 at the half.

“We talked at halftime about coming out and playing with some pride,” head coach Martin Louro said. “We had a pretty good second half.”

The teams traded points, 20-20 in the third quarter, and in the fourth, the Escalon bench outplayed the Hughson bench. The battle of subs saw Escalon outscore Hughson 21-8 in the final frame.

“Noah Casillas had 12 points,” Louro said of the leader coming off the bench.

Among the starters, Sahil Prasad was the leading scorer with 13 points, Nic Lattig and Kameron DeWeerd each had eight points on the night.

Thursday night, the boys were home and had Senior Recognition prior to the game, then fell by a 59-37 final to the visiting Hilmar Yellowjackets.

“We couldn’t find a way to score,” Louro admitted.

It was close in the first quarter, Hilmar taking just a 17-14 lead after one. But going cold in the second quarter, Escalon was outscored 15-2 in that frame to trail 32-16 at the half. Hilmar had a slight edge, 19-16, in the third as the Cougars tried to battle their way back into the game. A low-scoring fourth saw Hilmar edge the host team 8-5 in that frame, taking the win.

DeWeerd had 10 points for Escalon in the loss, Steven Grossi put in eight.

On the road for their season finale, the Cougars traveled to Mountain House on Friday, Feb. 9 and lost there, 62-40. It was another tough first quarter, the Cougars managing just three points in that frame to the 17 for Mountain House, putting them in a deep hole early in the game. They could never recover, though they did score in double digits in each of the remaining three quarters. Mountain House, however, also hit double digits in each quarter to earn the win.

Prasad had 15 points in the final, Lattig added six.

“We were winless in league, in the 12 years I’ve been coaching here, that has never happened, I’ve never seen that,” said Louro. “We did get a couple of wins in preseason.”

The team went 2-25 overall.

“My job as the coach was to get the kids to play together, work together and I just couldn’t get them to do that,” Louro admitted. “This is on me.”

He added that, individually, the Cougars had several good players but just didn’t mesh into a cohesive team.

But with some success at the JV level and a large group of talented sophomores ready to make the move to varsity next season, Louro said there is hope for the future.

“We will take a month off like we have to,” the coach explained, adding that then they will get back to work with some clinics and skill development. The team also typically participates in a summer league to get more on court experience.

“That sophomore group seems to be really committed,” said Louro.