Finding ways to win has been difficult this season for Escalon’s varsity boys in the Trans-Valley League, as they have struggled to close out contests on the basketball court.
They had a pair of games this past week and came close in both, but neither one went in the win column.
Tuesday night, Feb. 10, the game started with recognition for both senior cheerleaders and players, saluted at center court, accompanied by parents, family or friends. After the special Senior Night ceremony, the Cougars tipped off against visiting Ripon Christian and RC ran out to an 18-8 advantage after one quarter, Escalon battling back with a 12-7 run in the second to trim the lead to 25-20 at the half.
“We were down by seven after three and I thought we were going to wear them out,” head coach Martin Louro said, noting that the Knights had previously lost one of their starters to injury and was forced to go to their bench for more minutes.
“In the fourth quarter, we let things get away from us, we lost it 58-47,” Louro said. “It’s so hard to teach that ‘knockout’ instinct, we just can’t close teams out, the fourth quarter has been an issue for us all year.”
Nobody hit double digits for Escalon in the contest; the leading scorer was Chapman Mello with eight points. Chipping in with six each were Vinnie Bacay, Sam Lattig and Gonzalo Gonzalez.
Thursday, it was a road game for the Cougars, heading to Hilmar and taking a 73-61 loss.
“This was kind of an interesting game, it was back and forth,” Louro said. “We were down by seven at halftime, they (Hilmar) made some later runs.”
Working to forge a 59-59 tie late in the fourth quarter, a disputed technical foul called on an Escalon player for making contact with a Hilmar player on an inbounds pass turned the tide in the Yellowjackets’ favor.
Louro said he felt the technical on his player was unwarranted and he let the referee know.
“I had a few things to say,” Louro admitted. “I got a technical.”
It just started to unravel then, the coach said, with Hilmar taking advantage of the technicals and opportunities at the free throw line to score in double digits in the last couple minutes of the contest.
“It was really bad,” Louro said. “We could have done things differently.”
Mello poured in 19 points in the losing effort, Lattig had 17 and Marvin Lawrence added nine.
The varsity squad was scheduled to travel to Ripon for a Feb. 17 game, after The Times went to press, closing out the season.
“We just haven’t played consistently enough,” Louro said of the tough season. “All the games have been close. We are 1-8 but I’m hard pressed to say any of these other teams are head and shoulders above us, we just haven’t gotten it done.”