Hosting both Trans-Valley League games they played this week, the varsity Cougar basketball boys won both convincingly, helping account for a clean sweep, 6-0, of opponents by the freshmen, JV and varsity levels.
“Tuesday at home against Orestimba was a fun night,” coach Martin Louro said of the Feb 4 contest. “Everyone played, everybody that played scored, it’s nice to have those types of games once in a while.”
Owen Pangilinan (injury) and Stephen Silveira (illness) did not suit up for the game but every other rostered Cougar played and scored. Louro said he was particularly happy for the guys that don’t typically get much playing time, as they were able to play at least half the game against the Warriors.
“Those guys, they work their butts off in practice and it’s good to be able to reward them with playing time,” Louro said.
Three Cougars were in double figures on the night, paced by 17 from Thomas Diniz, 15 from Marvin Lawrence and 11 from Ben Hood. Escalon rolled to a 26-9 first quarter scoring edge and were up 44-16 at the half on the way to an overall 78-43 decision.
Making the most of his time on the court, Gonzalo Gonzalez poured in nine points against the visitors. Escalon outscored Orestimba in three of the four quarters and the teams traded points, 14-14, in the fourth.
The win kept Escalon in the running for the playoffs and they confirmed their reservation in the postseason with an even more satisfying victory on Friday night, dumping the Hilmar Yellowjackets and celebrating Senior Night.
They came out somewhat slow, said Louro, with all the hoopla surrounding the Senior Night recognition and starting all seniors – including some that aren’t traditionally starters – getting the team a little off their stride. Hilmar took advantage by hitting a trey and another bucket to take an early 5-0 lead but the Cougars quickly answered and had a 14-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. They traded points in the second, 10-10, so the Cougars still had a lead, 24-17, at the half.
“We were up but I didn’t feel we played with as much fire in that first half as we normally do,” noted Louro of the halftime lead. “Hilmar is a real physical team and we had to stay focused. In the third quarter we did pick it up a little bit and then in the fourth quarter, we really got it going.
“Our defense was better, all of a sudden we got a couple of turnovers, our defense started creating offense and that’s what we have to do to be successful.”
Again, it was Diniz leading the way, as he has taken control of the court, serving as point guard and effectively running the offense. He had 18 points against Hilmar and did “a great job” taking care of the ball, said Louro.
Hood added 11 points, as the Cougars used a 21-12 fourth quarter edge to seal the victory. Silveira had eight and senior Julian Young got in some good minutes in the fourth quarter, scoring six points on the night.
The varsity improved to 7-3 in the Trans-Valley League with the wins, third behind undefeated Modesto Christian and Riverbank, whose only losses have come to MC. The Cougars were scheduled to play at Hughson on Tuesday, after The Times went to press, and close out the regular season next Tuesday at Modesto Christian.
Louro said while the team is definitely in the postseason, he was hoping for a good effort at Hughson, which could have an impact on where they are seeded for the playoffs.
“I’m happy with the way the team has progressed throughout the season,” Louro said. “We expected to be in the playoffs, we are in the playoffs.”
Though a home game is unlikely, Louro said they won’t know where they will play until after the final league game. Still, he and his team aren’t really particular, just eager to face off in the postseason and hoping to make some noise in the D-IV playoffs.
This week’s wins also saw the team even its overall record, now 12-12 for the season.