All three levels of the Escalon boys basketball program traveled to Johansen on Thursday, Dec. 23 for a non-league game.
It was a one-point loss for the varsity Cougars, while both the JV and freshmen picked up wins.
Varsity head coach Nate Bartelink said his squad lost by a 55-54 final, trailing 10-6 after the first quarter and 28-21 at the half.
“This was, without a doubt, our worst performance of the season. I am highly disappointed in our ability to perform better against an opponent that we should have had more success against. We went into the game hoping to hold out Russell (Weinbrecht) one more game, in an attempt to get him three more days off during our break for the Christmas holiday to help him recover from his recent ankle sprain,” Bartelink explained. “We struggled so much early on that we felt we had to insert him into the game in the middle of the second quarter to help us try to get something going.”
Escalon did win both the third and fourth quarters, a 17-13 scoring edge in the third to cut the deficit to 41-38 entering the final frame, and fell just short with a 16-14 run in the fourth quarter.
“We were down by seven points at the half and as many as 13 points in the third quarter,” said Bartelink. “Johansen played a zone the entire game and our offense had a hard time generating easier scoring opportunities. We were able to grab a three point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but it was short lived.”
The coach said the team’s defensive positioning, on ball defense and defensive rotations, let them down in critical moments of the game down the stretch.
“We turned it over with under a minute to play with a one point lead, allowing Johansen to convert a lay-up and take the lead,” Bartelink added. “We were unsuccessful on a couple shot attempts on our last possession. The game should not have come down to the last two possessions that didn’t go our way. We need to play better at the beginning of the game and throughout, to create more of a cushion on the scoreboard which will help us comfortably finish the game.”
Jack Anderson had 15 points for the Cougars, including hitting four three-pointers on the night. DeSean Owens also put in 15 points while Donovan Rozevink had a varsity career high 12 points. Russell Weinbrecht notched 10 points in just over half the game.
“Quite simply, we need to collectively be better in all facets of the game, starting with myself in our preparation,” summarized Bartelink. “I’m curious to see how we respond as we take part in the Livingston Tournament this week (Dec. 28 through 30) with the chance of playing some quality teams that we have already faced this season. I’m looking forward to seeing what this team is made of as we are currently navigating through some adversity.”
With the loss to Johansen, the varsity dropped their record to 7-4 overall.
The JV boys, with head coach Dave Anderson, improved to 6-4 overall with a 59-47 victory against Johansen while the freshmen moved their record to 8-3 with a 52-30 win over the Vikings.
Escalon’s freshman and JV boys will be playing at home this week for the Cougar Christmas Classic Tournament, Dec. 28 through 30, with games in both the old and new gyms on campus.