Coming off a successful tournament effort, the past week was a tough one for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys, dropping two non-league contests and their Trans-Valley League opener.
They were on the road for non-league action, traveling first to Atwater on Dec. 17.
It was a 59-36 loss and was also a game where the varsity lost one of their leading scorers in the first quarter.
“Brenden Holmes went down a couple minutes into the game,” head coach Nate Bartelink said of Holmes striking his head on the court after a tough defensive play by Atwater.
“We sat him out the rest of the way as a precaution,” Bartelink said.
Even without the offensive cog, the Cougars battled to keep it close and were within 10 points until the final couple minutes of the game.
Down 14-9 after one and trailing just 21-19 at the half, Atwater gained some momentum with an 18-9 run in the third quarter. The host team then outscored Escalon 20-8 over the final eight minutes.
“It’s hard to replicate that scoring ability,” Bartelink noted of losing Holmes for the contest.
Doing their best were Kameron DeWeerd, who poured in 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, and Colton Panero, chipping in with eight points.
At Argonaut on Wednesday, Dec. 19, the Cougars ran into a virtual buzz saw.
“They are the reigning D5 state finalists and top to bottom, they’re really good,” said Bartelink. “They are a good team and we just didn’t play well.”
The end result was a lopsided 74-34 loss.
Escalon was doubled up, 22-11, in the first quarter and trailed 37-20 at the half. It was a 50-29 edge for Argonaut after three quarters.
“We had another bad fourth quarter, they outscored us 24-5,” Bartelink said. “One of their players had five 3’s on us in the first half.”
DeWeerd had 13 points and Holmes, cleared to play, had 10 points in the loss.
Friday night the team was back on the home court, hosting the Trans-Valley League opener and starting off with rival Riverbank.
“The boys played extremely hard, we just didn’t make enough shots,” the coach said.
Neither team had many shots falling in the first half but Riverbank got a few more to fall in the second half, eventually coming out on top of the Cougars by a 47-41 final.
“It was a typical Riverbank-Escalon game,” Bartelink added of the fast paced, scrappy contest. “I felt we did a good job on their point guard (Robert Cunha) but they did have one player who hit three 3’s in the third quarter.”
That helped provide the margin of victory.
Escalon had a 10-8 lead after one and maintained the 2-point edge, 20-18 at the half. Riverbank, though, edged ahead with a 16-11 run in the third to lead it 34-31 entering the final period and the Bruins won that frame as well, 13-10, to take the hard fought win.
“The boys played hard and our defense played great,” noted Bartelink. “We just need to get more balance in scoring and we didn’t make the shots when their guys got hot.”
Holmes had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cougars, with six points apiece from Dylan Ruiz and Panero.
This week, the varsity team heads to the Columbia Tournament, opening play against Stagg with a 5 p.m. tip off on Thursday, Dec. 27.