Holiday break hoops action saw Escalon’s varsity basketball boys suit up for three games in the Columbia Tournament.
“We beat Golden Valley in the opener (Dec. 28), things started off good,” said head coach Martin Louro. “It was an up and down game, we came out and looked great, then we didn’t have the same fire in the second quarter, we have been having a problem with consistency.”
After leading 17-6 after one quarter, the Cougars were outscored by 10 points in the second, leading just 22-21 at the half.
“The third quarter we played pretty even, they took the lead for a minute but we won the quarter, 16-14, so we were up three going into the fourth and we won that quarter 20-17 so we took a 58-52 win.”
Tommy Pangan led the team with 16 points, Garrett Nebe had 12 and Caleb Hansen put in 11.
“They are a big school, they are struggling a little bit this year but they definitely had some players,” Louro said of Golden Valley.
For the Cougars, the coach was pleased with the effort of Nebe, who has been playing well, and Pangan, who has been playing with more confidence.
The opening round victory put Escalon into the winner’s bracket on Tuesday, Dec. 29 and they faced Liberty Ranch, out of Galt.
“We knew it would be a tough match up,” Louro said, noting that Liberty Ranch is a balanced team and featured one of the best all-around players he has seen in some time.
“They’re a good team, but I don’t think they are 44 points better than us,” Louro said of taking an 80-36 loss. “We were down 27-13 after one and we just kind of quit, I hate to use that word, but it just progressively got worse.”
It was 53-22 at the half, the Cougars notching just 14 points total in the second half. Hansen had eight points, Nebe seven and Pangan had six.
“It was a gut check moment, we talked about it after the game,” Louro said, adding that the team opted not to call it in, but come back with a stronger effort in their final game on Wednesday.
“It didn’t translate to a win but they did play with intensity,” he said.
Sonora was just a few points better than Escalon, taking a 70-62 win.
“They showed me they had a little fight in them, they were willing to work,” Louro said of his team.
There was a major discrepancy at the free throw lines, Sonora hitting 26-for-38 while Escalon had just 9-for-17 shooting at the line, getting there far fewer times. Still, the Cougars made it close, down five points after one and down just four points headed into the fourth quarter.
“They came in, they played hard against a good team, just came up short,” said Louro.
Pangan had 28 points in a breakout game, including 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Hansen had 18 points, Nebe had 11.
“We are right on the bubble, very close to where we need to be,” Louro said. “When we give maximum effort and play as a team, we look good. When we do less than that, we look average.”
The goal this week – as the Cougars start Trans-Valley League play on the road Friday, Jan. 8 at Riverbank – is to be the team that gives maximum effort.
Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.