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Split Of League Contests For Varsity Girls
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They won on the road but fell just short at home in the regular season home finale.

The varsity Lady Cougars upended rival Hughson on Monday, Feb. 7 and battled against Ripon on Thursday, Feb. 10 as part of Senior Night festivities, losing by a small margin.

"We totally jumped on Hughson," coach Gary Ball said of the road game to start the week. "Sandi French had five of our points, Jen Costa had six of our 13 points in the first quarter."

The girls raced out to the early 13-5 lead and stretched that to a 25-8 advantage at halftime. They eventually took a 35-23 win from the host Huskies.

"Sandi scored all 11 of her points in the first half," added Ball. "We were up 25-8 at halftime and then scored only 10 points the rest of the game."

But the early lead and some strong defense held up, leading to the victory.

"Alyssa Guzman had six of our 10 points in the second half," Ball pointed out.

Guzman and Costa had eight points each in the game, French led the way with 11.

The teams played a close third quarter, Hughson held the scoring edge in the final frame but it was too little, too late.

"Our posts are playing better," Ball said of the game. "We had Jen Costa and Shannon Krein at the posts and Shannon had a very good game inside, Jen too, I was very proud of the way those two worked well together."

Thursday's game with Ripon was preceded by the Senior Night honors for the five players closing out their high school career on the home court. Recognized were Amber Anderson, Lauren Brown, Sandi French, Alyssa Guzman and Stephanie Horton. They were each escorted by various family members to center court for the honors, receiving flower and balloon bouquets.

Then it was time for the game and the Lady Cougars came close to upsetting powerful Ripon, falling in a 45-39 decision.

"Down there, they beat us by 26," Ball said, noting that the 20-point turnaround is something to recognize. "They hit a couple of buckets to go ahead, we had to foul them down the stretch and it just didn't go our way."

The teams battled in a ferocious, nearly bucket-for-bucket first half, tied midway through the game when Lauren Brown hit the tying shot at the buzzer to make it 21-21 after two periods. Ripon was just one point better than the host Lady Cougars in the third period, then outscored them 15-10 in the final frame. Free throw shooting was again a problem for the Escalon squad, hitting just four out of 12 opportunities.

"If we make our free throws, the game is closer," Ball said simply. "The girls have not concentrated as much as they should on that...intensity is hard to come by at the end of the season."

Lauren Brown paced the team against Ripon with eight points, Sandi French had seven and Jen Costa chipped in with six.

Ball added that the defense that Ripon put on worked to perfection.

"Their ability to handle Kacey (Ball) up top made us change the way we tried to do things," he said. "We struggled in the first half but if we can play like this against Hilmar (Feb. 17) we can upset them there."

Ball said the team has come together a lot in the past couple of weeks, getting some more confidence in their abilities and translating that into some wins after a down period in the middle of the league season.

"There's a feeling of some accomplishment," he said.

Playoff action is still likely, though the girls will have to wait until seedings are announced to find out where they will be playing.

The girls close out the regular league season with the road game at Hilmar on Thursday, Feb. 17.