Outscored 26-4 in the first eight minutes, Tuesday night’s game was an uphill climb for the varsity Cougar basketball boys. They lost on the road to undefeated Trans-Valley League champion Modesto Christian, 79-41, on Feb. 18.
“I wasn’t real happy with the way we came out,” said coach Martin Louro. “We looked a little tight.”
And they didn’t need to be, as the game didn’t determine whether or not they made the postseason; they were already in, the only TVL losses for the Cougars this year coming to MC and Riverbank.
“We had a lot of good looks,” the coach added, “the shots just weren’t going in.”
After battling their own confidence in the first quarter, Escalon stepped it up in the second and won that frame, outscoring MC 16-10.
“So we were down 36-20 at the half,” Louro said. “We really got after it in the second quarter.”
A 16-point deficit isn’t insurmountable and the Cougars worked to at least hold their own in the third quarter, but MC outscored them 24-16 to stretch the lead to 60-36 entering the final frame.
“In the fourth quarter, they upped the lead to 28, with about three-and-a-half to four minutes left, I subbed out, they went on a 14-0 run then to put it to where the final score was,” Louro explained. “They’re just better; a more talented team.”
Junior Chapman Mello had a solid game for Escalon in the regular season finale, scoring 14 points, with Thomas Diniz scoring 10.
The Cougars went 8-4 in the TVL this season, losing twice to MC, twice to Riverbank, but able to get big wins against Ripon and key victories over Hilmar and Hughson, along with handling Orestimba at home and on the road for wins as well.
“There are some real positives to take to the playoffs,” Louro said.
Those include the team being able to play solidly on the road and bringing a well-rounded attack into the contest. The Cougars got the Number 12 seed in Division IV for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and they will travel to face Number 5 Marysville tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 26. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
Louro said they did have film of the team to watch, which will help them plan their strategy.
“It’s a winnable game,” the coach said. “They’re good, there’s a reason they are the number five seed. But they were 6-4 in their league, the GEL (Golden Empire League), they took second.”
Louro said the Cougars will need to focus on the game at hand, not let crowd noise or the hostile environment get to them.
“The tough thing is to be on the road,” he said.
But the coach added, the team knows it is a game they can win, and that will be the focus on Wednesday night.
Since power ratings no longer figure in to the seeding formula, Louro said he feels there could have been some better placements.
“I thought Marysville should be an eight seed, not a five. I like the power ratings better,” he noted. “I hope there are a bunch of upsets this year.”