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Playoff Push, Senior Night On For Varsity Basketball Boys
Senior Derek Fragoso, 33, is under pressure from the Riverbank defense in an earlier home game this season. The boys won two road games this week to stay in the mix for the playoffs and will host Senior Night festivities on Feb. 8. Marg Jackson/The Times

Bouncing back from a home loss to rival Ripon, the varsity Cougar basketball boys put two key victories on the books, getting the wins on the road this past week.

They opened up the trio of contests at home hosting Ripon on Jan. 31 and fell by a 60-58 final.

“The first time we played at Ripon, we battled back from a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter and won in double overtime. As with most Escalon/Ripon games, we knew this would be a challenging one,” noted head coach Nate Bartelink.

Trailing 33-24 at the half, the Escalon squad went on a 26-6 run in the third and took a lead into the final frame, up 50-39, but couldn’t hold off the determined Ripon team.

We played inspired in the third quarter; one of our most complete quarters of the season,” Bartelink added.

However, the defense as a whole let the team down on the final quarter. The Cougars only rebounded 25 percent of their defensive rebound opportunities in the fourth, with Ripon getting the offensive rebounds and additional scoring chances on 75 percent of their possessions. The visitors were also 14-for-20 from the free throw line; Escalon was 3-for-5.

“Those two stats alone are not a recipe for success. Needless to say, our fourth quarter lead evaporated and we weren’t able to get a stop on Ripon’s final possession of the game, where they grabbed a one point lead,” explained Bartelink

After a shot by Jack Anderson for the Cougars that rimmed out, they were forced to foul.

“Ripon made one free throw to extend the lead to two points and we weren’t able to get off another shot,” Bartelink said. “The loss was extremely disappointing on many levels. Losing to Ripon always feels worse than other losses, but we also thought it was a wasted opportunity in terms of potential playoff seeding.”

Jack Anderson had 23 points; Sammy Jimenez added 17 points and four assists; Zack Valencia chipped in six points and seven rebounds.

Thursday at Livingston, the teams traded quarters, Livingston going up 15-10 after one, the Cougars outscoring them 17-14 in the second to trail 29-27 at the half. The Wolves were up 39-34 after three but the Cougars found another gear and poured in 22 fourth quarter points to seven for the Wolves, taking the game by a 56-46 final.

“This game was a difficult one to go through. I don’t remember the last time that I commented on the officiating publically, but we felt the game was called very inconsistently,” said Bartelink. “There were 44 combined fouls called over the course of the game, and we definitely got calls in our favor, but we just felt there should have been many more. Livingston is notorious for using their hands on defense and the officials let it go in this particular game.”

Escalon had several players in foul trouble, so they had to sit for extended periods of time.

“We managed the foul trouble pretty well and had everyone available for the fourth quarter. That’s when the better team turned it on. We were in the double bonus and shot 10-for-13 from the line in the fourth, while Livingston, also in the double bonus, missed several free throws,” the coach explained. “On the road, facing adverse circumstances, some other teams may have quit or imploded. Our guys did not. They remained positive, stuck with it, and eventually things started to go in our favor.”

Jack Anderson had 20 points while Jimenez had nine points and seven rebounds, with all nine of his points in the fourth quarter after playing through foul trouble.

“I give him a lot of credit for staying mentally locked in and playing huge during the fourth quarter,” said Bartelink.

Ben Fletcher added nine points, six rebounds; Logan Huebner six points, six rebounds; Zack Valencia six points.

“It was a great lesson on grit and perseverance. Besides the double OT win at Ripon a few weeks ago, this was the most proud of the team that I have been all season,” Bartelink said. “The win was extremely gratifying.”

On Friday, Feb. 3 at Hughson, the varsity Cougars took a 56-48 victory off the court.

Hughson has been playing better since adding some football players coming back from injuries, said Bartelink, and they had won three out of four games prior to facing Escalon, including an impressive victory over Ripon the night before.

“They also played us tough the first time. They had our attention. We came out blazing on the offensive end the first few minutes, hitting three 3’s, but then Hughson settled in defensively and the game was back and forth for the first three quarters,” the coach said. “Our defense was really good in the fourth and we had several guys step up and make ‘winning plays’. I was proud of how we were able to tough out a road win on back to back nights, in playoff type situations.”

Jack Anderson had 20 points, including three 3-pointers and Ethan Garza put in 10 points, still in somewhat limited minutes, but the coach said it was his best game since returning from his two-plus week absence due to injury.

Jimenez added nine points on the night and Fletcher put in six.

Varsity improved to 17-10 overall; 7-4 in TVL and currently in second place. They were rated ninth in the most recent release of the Maxpreps CIF SJS Division IV rankings.

The teams that finish in the top three of the TVL automatically qualify for the playoffs. Teams outside the top three, but in the top 15 of the Maxpreps rankings will qualify as an at-large, Bartelink explained. The playoff brackets are scheduled to be released on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 11 with the first playoff game anticipated to be Wednesday, Feb. 15.

This week will feature Senior Night on Wednesday, Feb. 8 against Hilmar in the team’s regular season finale, as they have a bye on Friday.

“We’ll be honoring our six seniors and their families for their four years of commitment and contributions to our program,” said Bartelink.

Seniors include: Jack Anderson, Sawyer Mello, Julian Borrego, Logan Anderson, Derek Fragoso, and Zack Valencia.



It was a solid week of competition for the JV boys, as they captured wins in all three of their games. Head coach Dave Anderson said they won easily over Ripon, 70-38; took down Livingston 73-53; and edged out Hughson, 71-68.

Against Ripon, Ryan Lewis had 21 points to lead the team while Jacob Augusto had 15; Daniel Gonzales 14; Ryan Murphy 14.

“In Livingston, Ben Ferreira had 17, Ryan Lewis had 30,” Anderson said of leading scorers against the Wolves.

The week ended in dramatic fashion on the road at Hughson on Friday night.

“Ryan Murphy had 15 rebounds to go with his buzzer beater 3-pointer to beat Hughson,” Anderson said of the game-winning shot. “Ben Ferreira had 24 and Ryan Lewis had 23.”

The JV improved to 21-6 overall with one final game against Hilmar on Wednesday night and are 9-3 in league play.

The freshmen fell by a 57-26 final to Ripon to open the week.

“Tough game against Ripon on Tuesday,” admitted head coach Steve Largent. “We played a gritty first half but the pace of the game got away from us in the second half.”

Traveling to Livingston on Thursday, Largent said it turned out to be very frustrating afternoon, as there were no referees for the game.

They were back on the road Friday at Hughson and fell behind early.

“We made a hard push in the third quarter but came up short,” said Largent.

Isaac Petalio paced the team with 20 points.

“Wednesday we will wrap up our season with a game we have been looking forward to for a long time against Hilmar,” Largent noted.