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Road Game Trips Up Cougars In Basketball Playoffs
After hitting a rough spot toward the end of the Trans-Valley League season, Escalon's varsity boys wound up as the number 13 seed in the Sac-Joaquin basketball playoffs and hit the road, headed to Amador on Wednesday night, Feb. 23.

They were tied with the host team, seeded number four in the playoffs, at the half but a cold third quarter spelled the end of the line for the Cougars.

"It really boils down to that third period," agreed coach Martin Louro. "That changes the way you play the fourth."

Amador was up 14-12 after one, the teams tied at 27-27 halfway through. But Amador came out of the locker room with a vengeance ad outscored Escalon by a 16-4 margin in the pivotal third frame.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," added Louro.

The Cougars battled back and put in 15 points in the final period, but Amador countered with 19, taking a 62-46 victory off the court.

"The kids played hard," Louro said. "But there were really two factors that made the difference. We got dominated on the boards, a lot of their points were on second chance opportunities. Our shooting percentage was also very low."

Louro said the Cougars have worked on being more aggressive on the boards in practice but got outmuscled by Amador.

"We could have done a better job," he said. "We could have controlled that more."

As far as shooting, it was just a cold night for the Cougars, hovering around the 20 percent mark for the game.

"It's tough to beat good teams if you can't put the ball in the hole," noted Louro. "For the game, we made 13 baskets total."

To win the game and move on in the playoffs, Louro said they had to do one of two things, either shoot really well themselves or contain the Amador attack. Neither one happened, and the Cougars were a 'one and done' victim in the opening round.

"I really think the teams are pretty even," Louro said. "If we play them 10 times, I think we each win five. But they were definitely better than us that night, they were more aggressive."

Nate Peterson poured in 11 points to led the Cougars, with Gino Franceschetti hitting for 10. Tyler Schuurman had nine points in the loss, with six from Robbie Leal. Peterson, Franceschetti and Schuurman all nailed down All-Trans-Valley League honors as well, with Honorable Mention going to Leal.

Adding four points on Wednesday were Patrick Mulry and Brandon Shaw, with two points from Austen Cardoza.

Even with the first round loss, Louro said there was reason to be happy with the way the team progressed throughout the season. The Cougars were 18-10, made the playoffs for the second straight year, and though they will lose four seniors, will have several juniors coming back and be joined by a talented group of sophomores ready to make the move to varsity.

"The next two or three years look bright," Louro agreed. "We'll be taking three weeks off, then we get busy again, we do some camps and run a program here during the summer."

The Cougars set a pair of goals, the coach noted, winning 20 games and having a home playoff game.

"We missed our goals by a little bit," he admitted. "But that's a testament to high goals."

He added that he saw some good things from the Cougars this season, displaying a solid work ethic, being responsible to their teammates and themselves, and working well as a team.

"These are things you will use throughout your life, not just in basketball," he said.