Five games between Monday and Saturday made for a hectic schedule for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys and the end result was two wins, three losses.
“I would say we played well twice this week, and both of those were losses,” said head coach Martin Louro.
The boys had a couple of preseason games, then were on the road for the Carmel Tournament late in the week.
Monday, they hosted Amador and came away from the Dec. 14 contest with a hard-fought 67-52 win.
“We were up six at the half, we got into a little foul trouble but we were able to clean it up in the fourth quarter,” Louro said. “We held them to eight points that quarter and outscored them 18-8.”
The fourth quarter put the game away for the Cougars, who had solid efforts out of Sam Lattig with 19 points, Tommy Pangan with 13, Trent Avilla and Garrett Nebe with 10 points apiece and Trevor Weinbrecht adding seven.
“It was good for us, the kind of effort that got it done,” Louro said.
Wednesday, they went on the road to Argonaut and faced a team that centers around a 6-foot, 7-inch post player.
“He gave us fits, he had 29 points,” Louro said. “We scrapped, though, we played well, forced some turnovers and we cut it to a three-point lead in the fourth, we were never down by more than eight or 10.”
The final was a 72-63 loss.
Again, the Cougars got balanced scoring with 17 points from Caleb Hansen, 13 from Pangan, 11 from Lattig and 10 from Avilla.
“We just need a little more composure,” the coach said. “We made some bad decisions on the floor that cost us.”
At the three-day Carmel Tournament Thursday through Saturday, the Cougars faced off first with Seaside in a Dec. 17 contest.
“The first quarter, we weren’t ready to play,” Louro said. “We were down 17-12 after one, we won the second quarter 17-8 so we were up by four points at the half.”
Despite the slow start, the varsity boys eventually got their legs under them and played a decent second half, outlasting Seaside 57-47 to get the win. Avilla had 16 points, with 11 apiece from Nebe, Lattig and Pangan.
“They had some talented guys,” Louro noted of Seaside.
He also said his players had difficulty adjusting to the more wide open style of play allowed by referees in the tournament, with many fouls that would have been called here let go on the courts in Carmel.
“They need to learn to play through that,” the coach said of his team adapting to the different style of refereeing.
With the opening round win, Escalon went into the winner’s side of the tournament bracket. That put them on the court against the defending tourney champion Salinas.
“They had by far the two best athletes in the tournament and I felt we were intimidated a bit by them,” admitted Louro. “We were a little afraid to dribble, afraid to pass.”
A tough first half saw the Cougars trailing 38-19 and they were down by 20 points entering the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth, we did cut into it a little bit,” Louro said of the Salinas lead. “With four minutes left, he (Salinas coach) started subbing out and we put the pressure on, we cut it to six points in the fourth and forced him to bring his starters back in.”
The final was a 66-55 loss, but the Cougars definitely made Salinas work for the win.
Pangan poured in 19 points, including three treys in the final frame. Hansen had 10, Avilla added nine.
In the third place game on Saturday against host Carmel, it looked like the boys were headed for a win.
“Under a minute left, we had a 55-52 lead,” Louro said. “But they hit a 3 to tie it.”
Escalon had possession and was playing for the last shot when it fell apart.
“I thought ‘we get the shot and win or go to overtime’,” Louro said.
But Carmel’s best player got a steal, took the ball down the court and got the game-winning lay-up.
In retrospect, Louro said he should have called a time out prior to his team’s last possession to make sure all players knew what to do; instead, Carmel found a way to get the win.
“We felt like we were kicked in the gut,” the coach admitted of the last second 57-55 loss. “But if we can clean up our mental mistakes, play together, play as a team, we have the potential to be good.”
Nebe notched 16 points on the night and played a good, physical game against Carmel’s top player. Hansen and Pangan had nine points each, Lattig had seven.
“Blue Capps came in during the second half and also did a good job guarding their big guy,” noted Louro.
Tommy Pangan was named to the All-Tournament team as the Cougars finished in fourth place.
“This week we have practices only, no games,” the coach said.
They get back on the court next week, traveling for the Columbia Tournament on Dec. 28, 29 and 30.