Splitting their games this week, Escalon’s varsity Lady Cougars basketball team won on the road and, despite a furious comeback attempt, fell just a little bit short on Thursday on the home court.
They were 56-35 winners on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at Hughson, starting out strong with a 14-4 run against the Huskies in Trans-Valley League action.
They continued the onslaught with a 16-7 run in the second, leading 30-11 at the break.
“We came out and played hard from the start, we came out with intensity,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We were up 12-0 early and Hughson burned through two timeouts quickly.”
Hughson did regroup at halftime and the teams were more evenly matched over the third and fourth quarters, as Dalpogetti got all his players on the court and saw 11 of 12 players score on the night.
The teams traded points, 11-11 in the third, and Escalon was just a bucket better, 15-13, in the fourth.
“They couldn’t really stop us,” Dalpogetti said of his squad playing a solid game. “It was nice to have one in control like that.”
The victory was a little bit of history, as it was the first time since 2007 that an Escalon team had beaten a Hughson varsity girls team, at home or on the road.
Natalie Gonzalez paced Escalon with 10 points and Justine Lawrence added nine.
“We were pretty balanced after that,” said Dalpogetti.
Thursday, hosting Hilmar, the Lady Cougars found themselves on the opposite side of the coin, as the Yellowjackets did to them what they had done to Hughson just two nights before.
“We were down 12-0 early, 14-2 at the end of the first quarter,” said Dalpogetti. “It was frustrating to watch, I used a timeout or two.”
Escalon also had two starters in early foul trouble, Dalpogetti having to sit both Shelby McCune and Jenelle Anderson in the first quarter, both racking up a pair of fouls in the first few minutes of the game.
But slowly, the varsity girls righted the ship, coming out more focused for the second quarter.
They battled for every possession and worked to set up each shot, crafting a comeback with a 19-4 run to go up 21-18.
“I didn’t know if we would have the lead at half but I knew we would be close,” the coach said of his team’s resolve to get back in the game.
The teams traded points, 12-12, over the third quarter and then Hilmar got the upper hand with a 19-13 scoring edge over the final eight minutes, the Lady Yellowjackets winning by a 49-46 final.
“We were strong early in the third, 29-20 was our biggest lead of the game, then we went on a scoring drought, it expanded from the third to the fourth quarter,” explained Dalpogetti. “I think we were kind of gassed at that point. It took so much energy to come back.”
The fourth quarter saw the Lady Cougars still within range of getting the victory, but they just didn’t have enough left in the tank. Not only physically tired, said Dalpogetti, but mentally taxed as well from the comeback effort.
McCune had a dozen points to lead the team and as frustrating as the loss was, Dalpogetti said the contest showed the determination and the resiliency of the squad, making the climb back from what looked like an early insurmountable Hilmar lead.
“We didn’t practice on Friday, we had a team meeting, I think the girls were a little burned out, plus we have been battling illness, injury, like many teams in the league,” said the coach. “We took about 90 minutes just to talk through some things, see where we are at.
“It was a good meeting, hopefully they will bounce back.”
The varsity was slated to travel to Mountain House on Tuesday, Jan. 26 after The Times went to press. They have a bye on Thursday, then start the second round of TVL play at Riverbank on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
“Every game has such huge playoff implications, only three teams in league go,” Dalpogetti said, with the Lady Cougars currently on the outside looking in. “We’re capable of getting there, but we have to handle business from here on out.”