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Road, Home Losses For Varsity Basketball Boys
Traveling to Atwater on Tuesday, Dec. 18, Escalon's varsity basketball boys lost a tough one there, then came home and battled a determined Hilmar squad, falling in that contest as well.

"We're getting very close to putting everything together," said coach Martin Louro. "Tuesday night, that was a real good game, they got us by 11 but it was a very competitive game."

Escalon lost the road game at Atwater, 59-48, but continued to scrap all the way to the end.

Armando Becerra had 12 points to lead the team, followed by a solid effort from Phil Quiroz with eight, Tim Bacay with seven points, James Harrison with six and Mike Martinelli chipping in with five.

Escalon was down early, trailing 19-8 after one quarter, but fought back to make the game respectable and give Atwater some trouble.

Hosting Hilmar in a Friday night game, Escalon stayed a few points better most of the way, leading by three entering the final frame. But free throw conversions by Hilmar in the fourth gave the win to the visitors, 73-67.

Louro said there were some bright spots in the Friday game, including getting back some guards, and seeing the team play at a consistent level.

"This was a much higher scoring game than we really would like," the coach added. "Our goal is to hold teams in the 50s, we should be able to score that much. If you let teams hit 70, that's putting an awful lot of pressure on your offense."

Hilmar took the lead after one quarter, 18-13, but the Cougars responded with a 25-16 run in the second to lead it 38-34 at the half. Hilmar outscored the Cougars 19-18 in the third, then put the game away with a 20-11 run in the fourth.

"I'm starting to get a consistent effort level, whoever's on the floor is going all out," Louro said of seeing some good work by his team. "Now we need to move to the next step, making some better decisions."

Doyle Niu paced Escalon with 13 points against Hilmar, with Becerra and Harrison each putting in 11. Spencer Franceschetti had nine and Bacay chipped in with eight. Four Cougars fouled out and, between them, accounted for 60 points on the night. Two Hilmar players that fouled out accounted for five of the Yellowjackets' 73 points.

"They shot 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to our four so, down the stretch, they really became the aggressor," said Louro.

Part of that, he said, could be that Escalon hasn't had much experience yet in having the lead going into the final frame.

"Instead of playing to win, we played not to lose," he said.

Though the game went down as a loss, Louro said he was pleased with the effort and the intensity, two things that need to be consistent if the Cougars are going to make any noise in the tough Trans-Valley League.

"I'm confident we'll make that turn," Louro said of getting around the proverbial corner. "I'm not going to make any predictions about wins or losses, but we should be fun to watch."

Escalon will get the chance for a few extra preseason games this week, participating in the Oakdale Rotary Holiday Classic, Dec. 26 through 29. Their first opponent is Division I school Johansen of Modesto, and they meet up with the Vikings on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the Oakdale High gym.