Wins over a pair of Trans-Valley League opponents made for a successful week for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys, the team topping both Hughson and Hilmar.
They were on the road for the Tuesday, Jan. 18 game at Hughson, taking care of the Huskies in a 72-46 final.
After running out to a 20-9 edge in the first quarter, Escalon had a 19-12 scoring advantage in the second to lead it, 39-21 midway through.
“Coming into the game, as a team we’ve been discussing that seasons have highs and lows. We’ve definitely had some of both. I encouraged them that the worst was behind us and that now was a good opportunity to start to find ourselves again,” explained head coach Nate Bartelink. “For some reason, Hughson always seems like a tough place to play, but in this particular game we came out and played really well on the offensive end. We had good scoring balance.”
The road win was satisfying, a complete team victory. Escalon outscored Hughson, 20-13, in the third to extend their lead and were a few points better than the Huskies over the final eight minutes to seal the win.
“We made 13 three-pointers on the night. Jack Anderson came out in the first half and was on fire. He had three three-pointers in the first quarter and four in the first half; five for the game and scored a game high 23 points,” explained Bartelink. “Joey Fross got it going in the second quarter after looking to distribute in the first quarter. He had 12 points in the second quarter and played a great game throughout. He did a good job playing under control, taking what the defense gave him and creating for his teammates, while also pouring in 22 points.”
Russell Weinbrecht scored nine points, and contributed in a variety of other ways, Bartelink said, while Julian Borrego chipped in with seven points including two three-pointers.
“Everyone got some playing time, which I was happy about,” added the coach.
Fross hit four three-pointers, pulled down four rebounds and had four assists. Weinbrecht added 13 rebounds, five assists and four blocks to go along with his night points; Ben Fletcher put in five points and Logan Anderson added four.
On the home court Thursday night, Jan. 22, it was a crisp 63-39 win over the Hilmar Yellowjackets.
“It was good to have a home game with a normal amount of fans and a student section,” Bartelink noted. “This was one of the quickest games I have ever been a part of. Both teams played zone which tends to reduce the number of fouls called. There was only one team foul between both teams in the first half.”
The first quarter saw Escalon open just a slim 18-14 lead over the Yellowjackets, but they extended it with a 20-11 run in the second, going up 38-25 at the half. They went on to outscore the visitors 25-14 in the second half to put their second win of the week on the books.
“The game wasn’t really close so the second half moved quickly. It ended up being a three-point shootout. While, as I coach, I don’t love settling for threes, but we were doing the right things to generate looks for our shooters. Part of our identity is our ability to shoot the ball well; we were just missing shots that our great shooters generally make,” Bartelink said. “With that said, we still made 12 three-pointers on the night. I was pleased with the paint touches we were getting and our unselfish play; passing up good shots in pursuit of great ones.”
The team did give up seven treys to Hilmar in the first half but made some adjustments at the half, vowing to move more quickly on defense.
“We made a goal at halftime to keep them under 40 points and we got it done. They only hit three three-pointers in the second half, which was better.”
With the wins, Escalon improved to 3-2 in Trans-Valley League play, 13-7 overall and are at No. 9 in the CIF SJS Division IV rankings.
The junior varsity boys continued their strong season with a road win at Hughson, a home win against Hilmar. On the road against the Huskies, Escalon came away with a 65-46 victory. They had a 14-13 lead after one, 26-22 at the half, but then pulled away with strong efforts in the third and fourth quarters, outscoring Hughson 20-13 in the third, 19-11 in the fourth.
Thursday, the JV team upended the visiting Yellowjackets by a 68-27 final.
The freshmen also got a win on the road, topping Hughson, but did not play Hilmar, as the youngest Yellowjackets team had too many players out, impacted by COVID. The frosh boys were able to pick up a game at Riverbank on Friday, when Hilmar was originally slated to play the Bruins.
In the Tuesday game at Hughson, the freshmen were paced by a 21-point performance from Ryan Murphy and 13 from Daniel Gonzalez, said head coach Steve Largent, who also pointed to a strong performance and leadership from Dom Arauza.
“Thursday we lost out on our game against Hilmar but we went to Riverbank on Friday and picked up an 18-point victory,” Largent said. “We played really well on defense as Alex Jones, Jacob Augusto and Preston Berhorst led the way defensively, applying great front court pressure.”
Murphy had 15 points on the night, Gonzalez added 12 and Arauza chipped in with eight.
This week, the basketball boys were to host Orestimba in non-league play on Monday, Jan. 24 after The Times went to press, in a game that was postponed on Dec. 21. Wednesday, the teams will be on the road at Riverbank and then Friday night, Jan. 28 will be Winter Homecoming, with the Cougars hosting Ripon Christian, currently undefeated in league play and in first place.