Falling to a very tough and talented Ripon Christian team to start the week, Escalon’s varsity Lady Cougars basketball squad found some toughness of their own. They rebounded with a crucial Trans-Valley League win on the home court Thursday against rival Ripon.
On the road for the Jan. 31 contest at Ripon Christian, the final was 40-34 in favor of the host Lady Knights.
“We were up 15-11 after one. Our offense looked solid but our defense could have been a little better,” explained head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We were up 22-20 at the half.”
The host team made their move coming out of the break.
“In the third quarter you could really feel the momentum totally swing away from us,” Dalpogetti said. “We could not make a shot. We missed free throws, lay-ups, put backs, jumpers, threes. You name it, we couldn’t make it.”
The varsity Lady Cougars scored just four points in the third quarter, all in the final minute of that frame.
“We had opportunities in the fourth but just couldn’t get back over the hump,” the coach said of taking the loss.
Shelby McCune and Jenelle Anderson both fouled out, though they contributed 12 and six points, respectively, before taking a seat on the bench. Priscilla Nowling had eight.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” added Dalpogetti. “Ed Mulder does a fantastic job with his team every year. You know the RC team you see early in the year will not be the same team you see later. They’re playing great basketball right now.”
The Knights, in fact, are the only team to have defeated league-leading Mountain House. They also beat Mariposa in a big non-league match up over the weekend.
“I thought we didn’t bring our most focused or energized performance with us on Tuesday,” Dalpogetti admitted. “We were in pretty poor spirits after the game knowing the playoff implications it had for us.”
Resilient, though, Escalon came home to host Ripon and put everything they had into the Thursday contest.
“I give my girls major credit for the way they turned things around on Thursday,” he pointed out. “To be so low and then to come out on Thursday with such determination, energy and enthusiasm speaks volumes to the young women they are.”
Escalon took a 52-34 victory off the court in a ‘must win’ situation, as Ripon is directly above the Cougars in the standings.
“We were up 18-5 six minutes into the game and finished up 18-9 after one,” Dalpogetti said. “We were up 24-17 at the half and then 38-25 after three.”
The coach classified the contest as the team’s “best performance of the season” and said multiple players were key.
Anderson paced the squad with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Alyssa Strock had a career high 16 points and nine rebounds. Haley Boyd chipped in with nine points, McCune had eight points and 13 rebounds, and Natalie Gonzalez was stellar, controlling the pace and playing excellent defense.
“The win puts us at 14-9 overall and 5-4 in league. We are tied for fourth with Ripon Christian and a game behind Ripon,” Dalpogetti said.
This week’s contests will determine if the girls get into the postseason. They were slated to play at Hughson on Tuesday, Feb. 7 after The Times went to press. Thursday, Feb. 8 will be Senior Night as they host Hilmar and they close out the regular season schedule on Friday night at Mountain House.
“We aren’t eliminated from playoff contention, but our focus right now is to take it practice by practice and game by game,” said Dalpogetti.
Information for the Thursday, Feb. 2 home game against Ripon was not available at press time; earlier in the week, the JV girls traveled to face off against Ripon Christian and fell just a little bit short.
In the Tuesday, Jan. 31 game at RC, the host team took a 10-5 lead after one quarter. A second quarter virtually devoid of any offense saw Escalon score four points to RC’s two, making it a 12-9 lead for the JV Lady Knights at the half. Escalon was held to just six points in the third quarter and then more than doubled that, putting in 13 points over the final eight minutes. RC, however, was in double figures in each quarter, scoring 10 in the third and 14 more in the fourth to walk off with a 36-28 victory.