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Senior Night Win Caps Off Hectic Hoops Week
Cougar Basketball
Sending off a shot is senior Bryce McKenzie, who got the start during Friday’s Senior Night contest and hit the first bucket of the night for the Cougars. Marg Jackson/The Times

It was a two win, one loss week for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys, with an emotional road win at Ripon, followed by a split of home games.

Tuesday, Feb. 1 at Ripon the varsity came away with a 54-53 win.

“Last time we played Ripon at home, after learning just hours before the game that we wouldn’t be allowed to have the normal amount of fans, we weren’t emotionally or mentally ready to play in that game,” noted head coach Nate Bartelink. “We said all the right things leading up to the game, but looking back, it was almost impossible to get our minds right to perform that the level we needed to, to be successful in that type of game. We were also missing four of our guys that night a couple weeks ago.”

This time around, the Cougars fell behind early and used a fourth quarter scoring edge to take the win.

“I was looking forward to how we would perform in this game, coming off a tough Homecoming loss to Ripon Christian. I wanted to see how we handled playing on the road, in a hostile, playoff like environment. Ripon was 7-1 in league play coming in,” Bartelink said. “Our guys were up to the task and I couldn’t have been any prouder of their effort. We changed up our defensive scheme in this game and it worked well for us. Ripon does not shoot the ball well from the perimeter, so we invited them to shoot from the outside, and we did a much better job defending their size on the inside than we did in the first match-up. We got great interior defense from Logan Anderson, Russ Weinbrecht, Joey Fross and Ben Fletcher.”

The game was tight throughout much of the game, but Ripon was able to extend to a double digit lead late in the third quarter.

“Our guys didn’t flinch; we re-grouped, played great defense and had some timely shooting. Ben Fletcher made a huge play by diving on a loose ball on Ripon’s last possession as Ripon was attempting to call a timeout,” added the coach. “A jump ball was called and we had the possession arrow, giving us the ball with a couple seconds left. We were able to inbound the ball and run out the clock to get the one point victory. It’s always great beating Ripon; it’s never an easy task. I was very happy that the team got to have that experience.”

Fross had 18 points and 10 rebounds; Weinbrecht had 17 points and five rebounds; three 3-pointers; Jack Anderson added 13 points.

It was a 52-49 loss at home Thursday, Feb. 3 against Livingston, the team experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows over a three-day span.

“Everything that I was concerned about happened in this game. We didn’t show up with the appropriate effort and focus,” Bartelink said, the team having a letdown after the big road win at Ripon. “A horrible second quarter basically lost the game for us. We didn’t play with poise; leading to nine turnovers and losing the second quarter 20-5. Give credit to Livingston for getting it done. We have to own up to our mistakes and move forward.”

Weinbrecht had 19 points and 15 rebounds; Fross added 10 points in the loss while Logan Anderson had eight points and four rebounds; Donovan Rozevink six points and five rebounds.

Friday home against Hughson; it was Senior Night and the varsity squad crafted a 68-51 win.

“The law of averages kicked in during this game. After hitting zero three-pointers the night before, we hit 17 in this game. I don’t think I’ve ever had a team make that many in one game,” Bartelink said. “It was a great night to honor our four seniors and their parents for all of their contributions to the boys’ basketball program during their time at EHS. Russell Weinbrecht, Joey Fross, Matthew Silva and Bryce McKenzie all got the traditional senior night start. Bryce McKenzie made our first basket of the game, getting a loud cheer from the entire team and the home crowd to start off the game.”

After having a horrible second quarter on Thursday, the Friday night second quarter was amazing, said the coach, as the team won it 30-10 and hit seven treys in that quarter alone. Fross and DeSean Owens had three each in the frame.

“We had a 45-17 lead at the half and we played a lot of different guys in the second half, but we especially wanted to let our four seniors have their final chance to play in front of their home crowd,” Bartelink said. “Bryce made a three-pointer in the second half, causing an eruption from the crowd. I was very happy to see him have those moments. He’s worked so hard for this program. He’s the ultimate teammate and a high character young man. It remains to be seen how our season will ultimately end, but this senior class will be remembered for representing our program the right way and continuing to establish a strong foundation of success that future teams in this program will be able to build upon.”

Fross had 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals; Owens had 12 points; Weinbrecht nine points and 11 rebounds.

“The future of this program is bright; a lot of that is due to the work that these seniors have put in over the years. They have set a great example for those younger players in the program on what can be accomplished if they put in the work,” Bartelink said. “They will be missed.”

The varsity team is awaiting word on the playoffs, with brackets to be released on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

The JV team lost to Ripon, beat Livingston and beat Hughson to improve to 7-3 TVL; 17-8 overall. The freshmen had a tough 1-2 week, losing to Ripon and Livingston before defeating Hughson. They are at 6-4, 17-9.

A trio of JV Cougars are in position on defense, working against the Hughson Huskies. Shown are Sam Jimenez, 10; Luke Maxwell, 4; Jamin Miller, 5. The JV team defeated the Huskies, 69-54. Marg Jackson/The Times