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Senior Night Success For Varsity Cougar Hoop Boys
Scoring 73 points is usually good enough for a win in the Trans-Valley League but the game went in the loss column for Escalon's varsity basketball boys, with Ripon Christian pouring in 82 points of their own during a Tuesday, Feb. 10 contest. Escalon was able to come back on Friday night, Feb. 13 and get a win, topping Riverbank.

In the game at home against RC, the Cougars played well but their opponent did also, with the Knights walking off the court with the win.

"This was just a night where everything went right for both teams," head coach Martin Louro said, noting that both squads played well and hit more shots than they missed.

Ripon Christian took a 22-16 lead after one quarter and stayed a few points better than the Cougars in the second quarter to lead it 50-42 at the half.

Escalon was playing without Leighton Pangilinan, who had another commitment, and Louro said they missed his presence underneath.

"We couldn't keep them off the glass," the coach explained of Ripon Christian. "They had 34 of their 82 points on offensive rebounds."

Justin Gutierrez did all he could to keep his team in it, torching the RC defense for 20 points, 15 of them coming in the second quarter. Doyle Niu had 18 points on the night, with 11 from Brandon Shaw, eight from Travis Cardoza and four put in by Justin Machado.

"The difference between us beating them before and now was Leighton being in there," Louro said. "If he's in there, I really believe we win that game."

As it was, the Cougars had to take the loss and then gear up for the home finale on Friday night, hosting Riverbank.

The Bruins got Escalon in Riverbank earlier this season so Louro said there was ample reason to want to get the win. Not only was it the home finale, the senior players and cheerleaders were also recognized prior to the start of the game for Senior Night.

In a slow starting contest, Riverbank had a 7-2 lead after one quarter of play and went up 24-18 by the half. But it was a determined Cougar squad that came out of the locker room for the second half and they outscored Riverbank 12-6 in the third to tie the game at 30-30 entering the final frame. The host team went on a 22-14 run in the fourth to take the win, 52-44.

"That was a great win for those boys," noted Louro. "Nobody will ever be able to take that away from them, those seniors, they held serve on their last time at home."

Louro said Riverbank has "the best defense" in the Trans-Valley League and he was excited for his players to find a way to win.

"Their coach does a great job," he said. "They're scrappy, it's hard to run your offense against them. But we played our best defense also."

Escalon's only two points of the first quarter came on a pair of free throws by Vince Aufdermaur, while senior Phil Quiroz stepped up in the second quarter, keeping the Cougars close with six points, including a pair on a lay-up on a nicely dished off pass from point guard Brandon Shaw.

Justin Gutierrez continued to have a strong second half to the season, coming off the bench to lead the team with 12 points in the contest.

"They were keying on Doyle," Louro said of the Bruins. "He got into early foul trouble."

Niu had six points and 11 rebounds, playing solid defense despite the foul trouble. Gutierrez took on the scoring role and Shaw, as a sophomore, is starting to come into his own, playing a much more effective game at the point guard spot.

"Phil, with his six points in the second quarter, really kept us in it and he looked alive," Louro said of Quiroz bringing some energy and intensity to the contest. "That was a key boost. Leighton had a huge bucket early in the fourth that gave us some energy.

"We really won it in the fourth."

Up by five points with about four minutes to go in the game, Shaw got a steal and dumped in the lay-up, stretching the lead to seven.

"I think that's what broke them," Louro said of the Bruins not being able to come back.

It was a total team effort, with Justin Machado getting a big 3-point play on a bucket and a foul shot and Spencer Murray, coming in to spell some players in foul trouble, notching four points of his own.

Shaw had nine points and six steals on the night, with eight points from Quiroz and six from Niu.

"The play of Shaw has really matured," said Louro. "He wants the ball, takes care of the ball and is making good decisions on the court."

With the win over Riverbank, the Cougars improved to 2-6 in league play with two to go. Both are on the road, wrapping up the campaign at Ripon on Friday night, Feb. 20. The Cougars were also slated to play at Hughson on Tuesday, Feb. 17 after The Times went to press.