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Varsity Cougar Boys Fall To Riverbank, Tokay
Marvin Lawrence flies toward the basket, slicing between a pair of Bruin players on the home court Friday night. Lawrence paced Escalon with 19 points, though the host team fell just short in the contest. Marg Jackson/The Times

Getting on the court for one league and one non-league game, Escalon’s varsity basketball boys did not come away from either contest with a win.

They hosted rival Riverbank in the Trans-Valley League opener for both teams on Friday night, Jan. 16 and the packed house was treated to a battle. Visiting Riverbank escaped the Cougar gym with a one-point victory, 63-62.

“We played pretty well in the league opener,” head coach Martin Louro said. “It was the most exciting 32 minutes of basketball I’ve ever been a part of.”

Escalon jumped out to an early lead but Riverbank battled back and took a 19-15 lead after one. From there, the Cougars outscored the visiting Bruins in each of the next three quarters, but only by one point each time, just not able to close the original four-point gap at the end.

Escalon outscored Riverbank 13-12 in the second to trail 31-28 at half, had a 16-15 edge in the third to trail 46-44 entering the final frame. The Cougars scored 18 points over the last eight minutes to Riverbank’s 17, falling in the 63-62 contest.

“No one could ever get much of a lead,” Louro said, noting that the teams did go back and forth, each spending some time with the upper hand, as the game wore on.

“They just made one more big play than us,” he said. “We’d get a stop, they’d get a stop …they hit a go ahead bucket late and we got two good shots, good looks at the end, they just didn’t fall.”

Escalon had four players in double figures on the night as they battled the Bruins, paced by 19 points from Marvin Lawrence. Chapman Mello added 14 while Sam Lattig put in 12, Kevin Gregorio added 11.

“They’re a good team, we’re a good team,” Louro said. “Unfortunately, somebody’s got to lose.”

And unfortunately for the Cougars, it was a game they gave up on their home court, in a season where every win will be crucial and making the playoffs will be tougher than ever.

“We won three quarters, they won one quarter but they were able to win the game,” Louro said.

For Escalon, there wasn’t much time to dwell on the loss, as they hosted Tokay the following day, Saturday, as part of a marathon day of basketball with all six Cougar hoops teams taking on the Tokay squads.

“It was good to get back on the floor and get that one out of our head,” Louro agreed of moving past the tough TVL loss.

Games started with the freshman girls at noon and continued through the varsity boys with a 7:30 p.m. tip off time. Escalon’s varsity boys fell in a 66-50 decision to the visitors.

“They had bigger, stronger, faster guys,” Louro said. “I think they took us a little lightly to start the game and we went up 13-8 after one.”

Tokay regrouped and outscored Escalon 21-14 in the second period, hitting a late three-pointer to take a 29-27 lead at halftime. Second half action saw the visitors outscore Escalon 37-23 over the final two periods for the win.

“They stretched out the lead a little bit in the third and did some more damage in the fourth,” noted the coach. “We also got into a little foul trouble.”

Louro said Tokay had one player who did the bulk of ball handling and shooting and he made the difference in the game.

“Their coach told me after the game, he said ‘you have a better team, I just have a couple of standout players’,” Louro noted, adding that he was pleased with the recognition from the opposing coach for the strong team play of his squad.

Lattig paced Escalon with a 15-point night, Mello had 11 and Lawrence 10 as the Cougars again had three players in double figures.

This week, the varsity boys are back on the TVL trail. They were scheduled to play at Hughson on Tuesday, after The Times went to press, and go to Ripon Christian on Friday, Jan. 23.

“We’re playing pretty good basketball,” Louro said. “We just need a couple other guys to add more to the scoring.”