Battling in their preseason finale on the road at Central Valley in Ceres, the Escalon varsity boys came up just a few points short, falling 72-67 in the Monday, Dec. 30 contest.
“We finished the preseason at 4-9 but I would say we are one of the better 4-9 teams in the valley,” said head coach Martin Louro, noting the varsity squad played several higher division teams in the preseason campaign.
Escalon took a 23-22 lead after one quarter on the road against Central Valley but stumbled in a 21-9 second quarter that saw the home team leading 43-32 at the half. An 18-10 run for Escalon in the third quarter saw them down just 53-51 but Central Valley was a bucket better in the fourth, 19-17, to seal the 5-point win.
“They’re a good, balanced club,” Louro said.
Owen Pangilinan had 22 points to lead the team with Thomas Diniz adding 12, Ben Hood putting in nine and Chapman Mello contributing eight points.
Louro said Central Valley featured a couple of standout players, one who put in 30 points, that made it difficult for the Cougars to contain the attack.
Still, buoyed by the strong effort, the varsity squad took advantage of the momentum and came away with a 66-57 Trans-Valley League road win on Friday night, topping the host Ripon Indians.
“They were 1-12 going in but they play a tougher preseason than we do,” Louro explained of Ripon. “They see high quality competition in preseason so I knew it would be a fight.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, Ripon leading 20-17 after one, Escalon leading 36-34 at the half. Escalon maintained the scoring edge, 16-14 in the third and 14-9 in the fourth, to seal the victory.
“Thomas Diniz did what I saw him do all summer, he ran our offense, he was able to take care of the ball, he was on the floor pretty much the whole time,” Louro said of the standout effort from the point guard.
Diniz had 12 points himself and dished out the assists, helping feed Owen Pangilinan, who had 27 points and hit five 3’s on the night. Stephen Silveira added eight points, Hood had seven and Marvin Lawrence chipped in with a pair of treys for six points.
Diniz, who played all but a couple minutes of the contest, had just two turnovers and the team itself had less than a dozen, collectively taking care of the ball.
“If Owen isn’t making baskets, we don’t win,” Louro added. “But Owen wouldn’t have gotten the ball as much as he did if it wasn’t for Thomas.”
The tandem worked well and helped the Cougars take the TVL opener, starting the campaign 1-0.
“They cut it to one point, more than once,” Louro said of Ripon battling back in the contest. “But we kept our composure.”
Escalon was scheduled to have its first home game of the TVL season on Tuesday, after The Times went to press, hosting Riverbank, then travel to Orestimba on Friday, Jan. 10.