Getting a win they needed to have to put themselves in good position for the playoffs, the Escalon varsity boys topped Ripon for the second time this season, defeating the visiting Indians on Tuesday night.
Escalon won earlier on the road in Ripon this season and coach Martin Louro said it was crucial for his team to get the victory at home as well, putting some distance between themselves and the Indians in the playoff picture.
“We got the big one at home, it was one of the biggest,” Louro said.
The team, though, nearly gave the game away with a collective taking the foot off the gas after building up a 20-point third quarter lead.
Escalon had a 12-8 lead after one quarter, and rolled in a 31-19 second to enjoy a 43-27 advantage at the half. When they upped it to 47-27 early in the third, Louro said they let up and Ripon seized their opportunity.
“They came roaring back and cut it to five,” Louro said, with the comfortable lead quickly down to a tenuous one. “Then we started missing free throws, it got tight.”
Escalon was able to prevail, though Ripon had trimmed the deficit to 58-50 entering the final frame. The host Cougars were a point better, 20-19, in the fourth to get the win, 78-69.
“Owen Pangilinan had 22 points, Ben Hood had 20 and Marvin Lawrence 15 so we had three guys in double digits,” Louro said. “Thomas Diniz had nine points and once again, handled the ball well, I don’t know where we would be without him this season.”
Stephen Silveira had eight points and 10 rebounds on the night.
Louro said the win against Ripon made Friday’s trip to Riverbank that much more important, since a victory there would knot the two teams in the league standings.
“We just came up a bit short,” Louro said, with the Bruins eager to make their Winter Homecoming a success with a victory and getting a 73-61 decision.
Down 20-10 after one and 33-23 at the half, Escalon made some adjustments and came out with a 21-17 effort in the third quarter, trailing just 50-44 entering the final quarter.
“If you don’t keep the pressure on, they’re going to score,” Louro noted. “We cut it to six but that was as close as we could get.”
Despite the loss, Louro said the game itself was one that was fun to be a part of, exciting from the first whistle and one that was a good one in terms of fan satisfaction as well.
Louro even got a technical in the third that helped spark his team, and Riverbank did not convert either of those free throws, adding to the Cougar fire.
“Thomas Diniz had 21 points, took care of the ball for us well,” said Louro. “Stephen Silveira had 11, Ben Hood had 13, Owen went down in the second quarter; he turned his ankle pretty good.”
Had Pangilinan been in for the full game, Louro said it might have been a different outcome. They will keep the high-scoring threat out of Tuesday’s game with Orestimba in hopes of having him back for Senior Night on Friday, Feb. 7 against Hilmar.
“We’re where we expected to be,” Louro said of losing only to Modesto Christian and Riverbank in league play so far. “If we had beaten Riverbank, we would be one of the top two teams in league, we are still a top three team and there is not a big gap between two and three.”
If the Cougars handle business the rest of the way, they should get a decent draw for the playoffs, though not likely a home game to start. Still, Louro is looking for solid play down the stretch and plenty of effort from all players.
“We’re definitely in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see where we are seeded.”