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Playoff Bound - Varsity Boys Get Final Week Hoops Split
The second season will start tonight for Escalon's varsity basketball boys, with the 11th seeded Cougars heading to Citrus Heights to take on the sixth seeded San Juan Spartans, champions of the Sierra Delta league with an 11-1 mark in league play.

Escalon, with a 7-5 mark and fourth place finish in the Trans-Valley League, should match up well against the host team, said head coach Martin Louro.

"It's not the strongest league," Louro said of the Delta Sierra League in which San Juan plays. "They are definitely a solid team but I like our chances.

"They don't draw particularly well, so if we get a good crowd there, it could give us a home court advantage, just not at home."

Tip off for the first round game is 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22. If Escalon is able to pull off the win, it sets up a likely Friday night second round meeting with TVL rival Riverbank, which hosts 14th seeded Mariposa in the opening round. If both the Bruins and Cougars are winners Wednesday night, they face each other in Riverbank's home gym at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

Meanwhile, the regular season's final week saw a win and loss for Escalon.

With three senior players recognized and all taking the court to start the game on Tuesday, it was a satisfying Valentine's Day win over Hilmar, 82-39. Seniors Austen Cardoza, Gino Franceschetti and Patrick Mulry started and all made contributions during the night, including Mulry being the leading scorer with 26 points.

He hit six 3-point shots on the night as well.

Coach Louro said Hilmar came in and played well early, but couldn't keep up with the pace of the Cougars.

"They played hard for about two and a half quarters," he said.

Escalon, with a 24-11 lead after one and 38-27 at the half, really turned it up in the third quarter and put some distance between themselves and the visitors, with a late run in the quarter to outscore the Yellowjackets by 27-10 in that frame.

"We could kind of tell by the end of the third, they were pretty much done," Louro said of the visitors.

Hilmar, in fact, scored just two points in the fourth quarter, as Escalon added 17 more to take a 43-point victory. Brian Gregorio had 19 points in the win and Cardoza chipped in with eight.

On Friday, the Cougars traveled to face undefeated Trans-Valley League champion Modesto Christian and the Crusaders kept a perfect 12-0 league campaign intact with a 92-71 win.

"Packy (Patrick Mulry) had 26 points Tuesday night, that's the kind of night we would need three kids to have on Friday," Louro said of having a chance to take down MC. "Our kids played hard, but they (MC) just have more talent."

Had the Cougars been able to win, they might have taken a seventh seed into the playoffs and hosted a first round game. But the loss puts them on the road.

Modesto Christian had just a 22-20 lead after one quarter on Friday and were up 49-33 at the half.

"The last 90 seconds of the second quarter, they went on a 9-0 run," Louro added. "In the third, we cut it down to 12 a couple of times, but then they would get it back up to 16, we would cut it, they would go up by 18, at the end of the third, we were still down by 16."

They traded points, 21-21 in the third and trailed MC by five, 22-17 in the fourth.

"We just didn't make shots we needed to make." Louro said.

The Cougars did have three players in double figures, Franceschetti with 20, Alec Von Alvensleben with 16 and Gregorio with 13 points.

Opening round starts on Wednesday, Feb. 22.