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Pair Of Hoop Wins Vaults Cougar Boys Into Second Place
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Upended by Ripon on their home court Tuesday, the varsity Escalon Cougar boys bounced back with a pair of wins on the road to go 2-1 this week in basketball action.

They hosted league-leading Ripon on Jan. 18 and found themselves on the losing end of a 70-48 decision.

"We got beat by a better team that night," said coach Mike Backovich. "It seemed like they made every shot they put up."

Ripon took a 19-12 lead in the first and ran away from Escalon with an 18-6 edge in the second quarter, posting a sizeable 37-18 lead at the half.

"It was like you put your finger in one hole to stop it and another hole sprung up," Backovich said of being unable to contain the Ripon players. "They kept their first group in there a long time and they took our hearts away, we didn't play with as much passion, as much fire as usual and they beat on us physically."

The Cougars shot unusually poorly from the floor, with just Steve Gentry, with 13 points, and Marc Backovich, 11, hitting in double figures. Grant Goedhart added eight in the loss.

It didn't look like the week would get much better, as the Cougars had to go on the road Friday night to take on previously undefeated Ripon Christian - at their Homecoming.

"It was a full house, their Homecoming and they were 17-0 going in," Backovich explained. "We won it, 69-60, you play a team like that and beat them at their Homecoming, that's a huge win for us."

Goedhart poured in 17 points, Marcus Savage had 16, Brian Beeman and Gentry had 12 each, with Backovich putting in 10 as the Cougars had five players in double figures.

"The key word again for us is 'Mojo'," explained Backovich. "We talked Wednesday and Thursday about stealing their mojo and playing with a lot of pride and heart."

The Cougars regrouped from the home loss on Tuesday, finding that mojo they were seeking, and using it to their full advantage. Taking it one step further, Backovich said the team even took the labels off sport drink bottles and replaced them with their own 'mojo juice' labels, a bottle for every player to use during the game.

"It was just a total team effort, we gave them everything they ever wanted," Backovich said of beating Ripon Christian.

Not only did they spoil the Homecoming, the Cougars also earned some revenge for losing to the Knights in the championship game of the Oakdale Tournament earlier this season.

"We felt we were quicker, I felt we needed to spread them out and attack them," Backovich said of the game plan. "We got the baseline a ton and kids made some unbelievable shots. Plus our fans, our student body, our parents, they added unbelievable efforts, they were standing and cheering for us on a time out late in the was a pretty wild scene."

Saturday, the boys went on the road to Livingston and won there in overtime, 71-68.

"That's ugly basketball they force you into playing," Backovich said of the Wolves. "It's a chaotic style of basketball, they do a rotation in the first half and they just hacked at will, the officials just did not call anything and it was out of control basketball."

Huge in the game for the Cougars was Steve Gentry, pouring in 31 points and pulling down 17 rebounds. He led the way as Escalon had four players in double figures, Beeman putting in 11, Backovich and Goedhart each with 10.

"That makes us 5-1 in league and in second place," noted coach Backovich. "I'm real pleased and I'm hoping that we will continue to play hard and work real hard."

The boys will face off against scrappy Livingston on Friday night, hosting the Cougar Homecoming with tip-off at 8 p.m.