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Non-league win for varsity in finale, loss in TVL opener
Cougar Basketball
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Senior Ben Fletcher, 22, drives toward the basket in a varsity boys game, the first of the TVL season, in Riverbank on Friday, Jan. 5. Though leading early on, the Cougars fell behind in the fourth quarter, and ended up taking the loss. Times Photo By Ric McGinnis

On the road for the preseason finale on Jan. 2, the Escalon varsity basketball boys came home with a win. But they opened up Trans-Valley League action with a tough loss at nearby Riverbank, falling to the Bruins.

At Bradshaw Christian in the Tuesday, Jan. 2 contest, the varsity boys earned a 64-55 victory.

They built up a 33-23 halftime lead and were able to hold off the host team for the win.

“Bradshaw Christian is an unfamiliar opponent, one that our program has never played before. They are a very good Division 5 team and our boys responded in a major way,” said varsity head coach Nate Bartelink. “We went into their gym and played one of our better games of the season. Bradshaw has some talented players, but our players executed the game plan and played really good defense. Ethan Garza was very active on both ends of the court; he was in attack mode, making some spectacular plays.”

Sam Jimenez, Ben Ferreira and Ben Fletcher all played well, added Bartelink, and Ryan Murphy seized his opportunity for extended minutes with Ryan Lewis out of town, and played really well.

“Ethan had several scoring runs of his own; making many big baskets when we needed them. Sam also made a big bucket to kind of put the game away. Ben Fletcher, Ben Ferreira and Logan Huebner played extremely hard. I was very proud of how the team performed,” Bartelink said.

Garza had 25 points, four assists, and four steals; Jimenez added 12 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. Ferreira chipped in with eight points, four assists; Fletcher had seven points, four rebounds; Murphy added six points, seven rebounds; Huebner had four points, eight rebounds.

Friday night, it was a different story as the varsity went down to defeat by a 48-40 final.

“Coming off of a great performance at Bradshaw, starting TVL play at Riverbank on Friday night, given what was at stake, we could not have had a worse game on the offensive end,” explained Bartelink. “Shortly before the game, it was decided that Ethan Garza could not start the game and would most likely not be available to play. He aggravated his lingering ankle injury at Wednesday’s practice and unfortunately was not healthy enough to play during the game. It was a gut punch for sure.”

Escalon did have a 10-8 lead after one but Riverbank reversed the trend and went up 23-17 at the half.

“We thought he’d be able to be out there continuing to play at the high level that he has been. He’s quite possibly the best player in the TVL and trying to replace him and all of the positive things he does for our team against the likes of Riverbank, and how they play defense, proved to be too much to overcome,” added Bartelink of going in shorthanded without Garza. “We were also missing Ryan Lewis for the first half of the game; he’s been playing really well recently. We struggled offensively the entire game. Everything we seemed to try offensively did not work. Credit Riverbank and their defensive scheme for holding us to 40 points, but we didn’t help ourselves out with 25 turnovers. That number is unacceptable if you expect to beat a good team.”

Coming out for the second half, Escalon tightened things up by going on an 11-4 run to lead by one, 28-27, entering the fourth quarter. Riverbank, however, turned up the defense and also the offense, outscoring Escalon 21-12 over the final frame to take the TVL win.

“We were trailing by 5 with three minutes to go, seemed to have a steal and possible lay-up in our grasp, but just couldn’t secure the ball, and Riverbank immediately drilled a 3-pointer; a 5-point swing and the nail in the coffin,” Bartelink said. “The loss was extremely disappointing; one that we must learn from. Our next opponents will not feel sorry for us.”

Ferreira paced the effort with 11 points and four steals; Jimenez had nine points and eight rebounds. Adding nine points and five rebounds was Fletcher; Lewis had six points and seven rebounds; Huebner had three pints, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The varsity ended the week at 13-3 overall with an 0-1 start to TVL play.



It was a loss to Bradshaw Christian on Jan. 2 for the JV Cougar boys but they bounced back with a league-opening road victory against Riverbank.

“We won 46-40. Up 14 at half and they (Riverbank) cut it to three late,” noted head coach Dave Anderson of the TVL opener for his squad. “We had two guys foul out but we held on to win.”

Cole Elsholz hit two clutch free throws to ice the game, said Anderson, while Issac Petalio and Mikie Lourenco each had 11 points.

Escalon’s freshmen earned a 42-26 win at Bradshaw Christian to start the week. They closed it out with an overtime loss at Riverbank.

“We had a very frustrating first half Friday and turned the ball over too much and found ourselves down at halftime 29-13,” explained frosh head coach Steve Largent. “It was a good news bad news talk at half. Bad news was we played ourselves into the position we were in, the good news was we had 16 minutes left to get back into it. And we did.”

The youngest Cougars fought all the way back and took the lead in the game with under two minutes to play.

“We had a one-point lead with eight seconds left and a foul was called with 1.1 seconds left that sent Riverbank to the free throw line,” Largent explained. “We ended up in overtime and our valiant comeback effort fell short in the end.”

Brien Novetzke and K’Oz Castro were key contributors on both ends of the floor, added the coach, while Ezra Rameno and AJ Covello made some timely buckets to help put the frosh squad in position to win late.

The JV record stands at 7-9, 1-0 in league; the freshmen are 8-8 overall, 0-1 in league play.


The upcoming week sees the teams hosting Ripon Christian on Wednesday, Jan. 10; traveling to take on Ripon on Friday, Jan. 12 and hosting Beyer in non-league play on Saturday, Jan. 13.

“This is going to be an extremely challenging week; three very good opponents,” Bartelink said, eager to get his varsity players back on the court. “I’m interested to see how we respond after our sub-par performance at Riverbank. Ripon Christian is the TVL title favorite until someone knocks them off. They are extremely young, but very talented. Ripon has been playing well all season. Beyer is a tough opponent to round out our non-league schedule. Hopefully we can get healthy and have everyone on our roster available the rest of our games moving forward.”

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Cougar Ben Ferreira, 15, puts up a shot past a Riverbank defender in TVL varsity boys basketball play, on Friday Jan. 5. It was first league game of the season for Escalon, with the host Bruins holding on for a 48-40 win. Times Photo By Ric McGinnis