After a Tuesday, Dec. 8 home loss to Calaveras, Escalon’s varsity basketball boys traveled to the Atwater-Buhach Colony Tournament for three contests later in the week. They ended up there as the first place team, claiming top honors with a 2-1 mark in the round robin tournament.
First, they were on the home court.
“We lost the game by 13, 59-46,” said coach Martin Louro. “Calaveras was a great test for us, it was 26-26 at half.”
With players including a couple over the 6-foot, 4-inch mark and one topping out at 6-7, Calaveras is likely the biggest team the Cougars will see all year. And though this game went into the loss column, Louro said he wouldn’t mind seeing them down the road in a playoff situation.
“We found out we can play with them,” the coach said. “We did a great job battling in the first half, they just did a good job wearing us down.”
Calaveras went on a run that served as a punch in the jaw to the Cougars, knocking the intensity down a notch.
“We didn’t play with the same intensity for a few minutes, that was the difference in the game,” Louro said. “We are working on playing at a consistently high intensity level.”
Sam Lattig had 12 points for the Cougars, Caleb Hansen and Tommy Pangan both chipped in with nine.
Thursday through Saturday, games in the Atwater Tournament kept the squad busy.
“We laid an egg the first night against Atwater, we came out flat, no fire, didn’t play inspired,” said Louro.
He said his halftime talk focused on the importance of the game – not in the scheme of life – but in the scheme of the right now.
“I said ‘make it the most important thing for this hour and a half’,” the coach said. “The second half, they played a completely different game.”
Down 34-12 at the half, Escalon fell to a 30-plus point deficit midway through the third when the lights went on.
“We made a big run, and we won the fourth quarter, 20-9,” Louro said.
The final was a 60-46 loss, so it was a 14-point differential, but a major turning point in getting that close.
“Things have been positive since then, if there is such a thing as a good loss, that was it,” Louro said.
Lattig paced a trio of double digit scorers with 19 points, Hansen had 15, Trevor Weinbrecht added 10.
The Friday night game pitted Escalon against Livingston.
“A very capable high school team, a lot of skill guys, they take a lot of quick shots,” Louro said. “For the most part, we did play well, we outscored them in the first and third, tied the fourth, they outscored us in the second quarter.”
Escalon won the contest, 80-66, though Livingston battled back to cut the deficit to six late in the game.
“We have a tendency to take time off,” Louro said of still occasionally losing focus. “When we are intense and focused, we do a pretty good job on both sides of the ball.”
It was once again Lattig leading the way, this time with 21 points, followed by Weinbrecht with 15, Pangan with 14 and Trent Avilla with 11. Hansen put in nine, Garrett Nebe had eight.
“Our last game was Saturday, we were playing El Capitan out of Merced, they were 2-0 in the tournament and 5-0 overall, with some good wins under their belt,” Louro explained. “We came out, our goal was to play a complete game, come out on top and it was the best we have played all year, the first time we played a complete game.”
Down just two points after one quarter and down four at the half, the team focused on smart defense in the second half, limiting the fouls while still pressing their El Capitan opponents.
“Everybody did a great job, Trent Avilla was our biggest defender, he made them take tough shots,” said Louro. “We held them to four third quarter points, outscored them 22-4.”
A one-point edge, 20-19, in the fourth quarter lifted Escalon to a 69-54 victory.
“The offense was great but the key was we held them to four points in that third quarter,” said the coach.
Pangan went off for 22 points, Hansen had 20 and Lattig added 16.
With three teams in the round robin tournament coming away with the same 2-1 record, Louro said they determined the winner based on a points system. Escalon did score the most points overall and Louro said he was informed by tournament officials on Monday that Escalon earned the championship trophy. El Capitan and Roosevelt of Fresno were the other 2-1 teams in the tourney.
“We think it was a big step, we will know this week,” Louro said of players adapting to the game plan. “Play at a high intensity level, within the scheme. It’s all about how hard you play tonight.”
The one game at a time mantra is something Louro feels will work well for the Cougars as they continue a busy preseason, heading to the Carmel Tournament this week.