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Solid Efforts Net One Win For Varsity Hoop Boys
Coming off Week 1 of Trans-Valley League play with a win and a loss, Escalon varsity boys basketball head coach Martin Louro is pretty satisfied.

"I don't think we could have had a better week," he said, noting that his team pushed Modesto Christian and beat Ripon Christian by a single point on the road.

The Cougars played host to Modesto Christian to open the TVL campaign and though the final was 92-62 in favor of the visitors, the Tuesday night game on Jan. 20 was much closer than the final sore indicates.

Battling throughout the first half, the Cougars matched nearly every run that the Crusaders went on, keeping the visitors within striking distance.

"We played great," Louro agreed. "They only beat us by two points in the third quarter and there were a couple of times where we cut the lead to six."

Modesto Christian had a 19-11 lead after one quarter and the Cougars were able to close the gap in the second, before a late surge by MC made it a 43-30 lead for the visitors at the half. They were leading 61-46 entering the final frame, but took advantage of Cougar fatigue and put the game out of reach with a 31-16 run over the final eight minutes.

"We took care of the ball for three quarters," Louro noted. "Down by 15 entering the fourth, we had four turnovers in a row in the first one-and-a-half to two minutes, they went on a 13-0 run on us and that was the difference."

Brandon Shaw had 11 points to lead the Cougars and performed admirably under the pressure of serving as point guard against one of the league's top defenses. Phil Quiroz and Justin Gutierrez each had nine points, with eight each from Travis Cardoza and Leighton Pangilinan.

"Fatigue became a big factor in the fourth quarter," Louro added.

The Cougars spent so much energy just keeping pace with the visitors over three quarters that they just ran out of gas in the final period.

"Anytime we would get on a run, they would answer us," said Louro.

He was pleased with the effort, though, and glad to see the Cougars staying competitive.

"We wanted to keep them out of the paint," Louro said, explaining that it would force MC to shoot from the outside.

They were able to do that effectively, however, with several 3's dropped in on the night.

"The kids were absolutely exhausted after the game," Louro said.

Friday, they were on the road for a game at Ripon Christian and took the Jan. 23 game by a 40-39 final.

"We were feeling pretty good about the way we've been playing so we went in confident that we had a chance," the coach said. "When you're playing with confidence, good things start to happen."

As he has all season, the coach reiterated the team mantra, 'maximum effort' and said his players bought into it this week, coming away with two very solid efforts and a win.

"We played extremely hard," he said of taking down Ripon Christian. "They're a big team so we knew we couldn't give them a lot of second shots."

That meant being aggressive on the boards and Louro said the team executed the game plan very well.

"We didn't shoot well," he added. "But if you can win games when you're off offensively, that's a good thing."

Shaw again was the leading scorer, this time with 12 points, and Doyle Niu had 11. Gutierrez and Vince Aufdermaur had five points each, Pangilinan had four and Travis Cardoza rounded out the scoring with three points, coming on a big 3-pointer just before the end of the half to put the Cougars even with RC.

"Shaw showed a great deal of maturity and on court leadership," Louro said of standouts in the contest.

Niu also stepped up, making a wise decision defensively with 2:30 to play that ultimately helped secure the outcome, taking a charging foul rather than trying to block a shot. Aufdermaur sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds to play, giving the Cougars the 1-point lead. Then they had to make the defensive stop. Ripon Christian got the ball down the court and actually got the shot off, it glanced off but an RC player was there for the rebound.

"We did such a great job on the boards the whole game," Louro said, noting that he thought RC might eke out the win by grabbing the final rebound. "They got the putback but it rolled off the front of the rim ... it was a big victory for us."

Escalon had a 13-10 lead after one and the teams were knotted at 19-19 at the half. Up 31-29 after three, the Cougars ended with the 40-39 victory.

"It's a testament to the heart these kids have," Louro said of battling to the end for the win.

League play continues this week; the boys were at Riverbank for a Tuesday, Jan. 27 game after The Times went to press. They host Hughson for Winter Homecoming on Friday, Jan. 30 with a tip off time of 7:30 p.m.