Two similar games with slow starts and furious comeback attempts … but both went in the books as losses for Escalon’s varsity girls basketball team.
The Lady Cougars started the Trans-Valley League season on the road, traveling to Riverbank for a Thursday, Jan. 15 game.
“We lost 45-41,” head coach Joseph Dalpogetti said of the close contest. “We were down 12-4 after the first quarter and 27-14 at halftime.”
Outscored badly in each of the first two frames, Dalpogetti said the team needed to make some serious adjustments.
“We came out flat, had a hard time against their zone to start the game,” he explained. “They were challenged at halftime to come out with more effort, better focus in the second half.”
The varsity girls were able to do that and outscored the host Lady Bruins over the third and fourth quarters, but they couldn’t quite complete the comeback.
“We can’t afford to spot teams a 13-point cushion,” Dalpogetti said.
Battling back from the double digit deficit, Escalon had a chance to tie it up late, with two shots at knotting the score in the final seconds falling short.
Jenelle Anderson had 13 points and Sarah Leal added 11 on the night. Bonnie Head chipped in with four but the girls opened up TVL play with the loss.
Saturday, hosting Tokay in a non-league contest, Escalon again gave up too many points too soon and found themselves down early.
“We spotted them a 22-4 lead at the end of the first quarter,” Dalpogetti said.
His team rebounded to go on a 14-7 run in the second but still were looking at a 29-18 deficit heading into the third period.
“I challenged them individually and collectively as a team,” Dalpogetti said, “to believe we had a chance to come back and win.”
The varsity squad did everything but win, outscoring Tokay 19-11 in the third to trail by just a 40-37 score after three.
“The fourth quarter was pretty wild, we took the lead at one point, then gave it right back,” the coach said. “Down by one late, Jenelle got fouled and went to the line for two, she split them, made one and we tied it up.”
Then with just under two seconds left, Escalon took a foul with Tokay in the double bonus and the visitors sealed the win at the free throw line, taking a 51-49 decision off the court.
Though the non-league loss was a heartbreaker since the girls had battled so hard to get back in it, Dalpogetti said they need to use it as a learning experience.
“We just talked about showing resiliency,” he said of the outcome. “We need to put together a 32-minute game, a complete 32 minutes, and give our best effort.”
Anderson poured in 21 points on Saturday, with 16 from Melissa Mullins, eight from Leal and four from Natalie Gonzalez.
This week, the varsity Lady Cougars will need to play full games, as they take the court at home against a pair of Trans-Valley League foes. They were slated to host Hughson on Tuesday, after The Times went to press, and face off with Ripon Christian on Thursday, Jan. 22.