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Split Of League Games For Varsity Basketball Boys
A tough loss on the road at Ripon may have cost the varsity basketball Cougars a chance to host a playoff game ... but that's not a certainty, making the final couple weeks of league play pivotal.

"It's not the end of the world, obviously, but we would have been in better position if we'd won both," head coach Martin Louro said of splitting this week's contests.

The boys were winners at home over Riverbank on Tuesday, coming up with a huge fourth quarter to seal the win, and fell in a two-point heartbreaker on Friday at Ripon.

"From five to 13 (seeds) it's very tight, one win or loss makes a difference so every game is important," said Louro.

On Tuesday, hosting the Bruins - back at full strength with the return of leading scorer Zack Gonzales, the Cougars led it 14-13 after one but trailed 25-21 at the half. They fell further behind when Riverbank seemed to take control with a 16-6 run in the third, entering the final frame looking at a 41-27 deficit.

"We came out with a good first quarter, built a big lead, 9-2, but then they took their foot off the gas," Louro said of his team. "Riverbank came back, we were down 14 going into the fourth ... then they pushed the gas pedal all the way down and had a 32-point fourth quarter, we won by eight points.

"That game was just amazing the way we came back. Tyler Schuurman hit a 3 to open the fourth, that cut it to 11."

From there, the Cougars just came together as a team and refused to let Riverbank steal one at their home court. A raucous crowd only added to the intensity of the event.

"Patrick Mulry had a 3-pointer, his only points of the night, but it was huge, it put us up by one with about 2:30 left," Louro explained. "Then Robbie Leal sealed it with a 3-point play with 1:30 left, made the shot, got the foul."

Schuurman had 18 points in the win, Nate Peterson came away with 16 for the Cougars and the team prevailed with a solid effort.

"I really couldn't ask for more," Louro said.

On Friday, the effort was there but the host Indians were one basket better, the game coming right down to the end.

"Two good teams got together, two good teams played pretty good basketball," Louro said. "My guys played hard, played their hearts out, both teams made mistakes, Ripon hit the big shot, they did just that little bit more to win."

Escalon had a 16-12 lead after one, 28-24 at the half. Ripon pulled even with a 19-15 edge in the third, with the teams knotted at 43-43 after three quarters. Ripon was one basket better, 13-11, over the final eight minutes for the crucial TVL win.

"We performed well, everyone got their money's worth," Louro said.

Schuurman again was high point man for the Cougars with 20 points, including three 3's and 5-for-7 at the free throw line. Peterson had 12 points, Leal added nine. Teams keyed on Gino Franceschetti this week, Louro noted, holding him to seven points in the Riverbank game, five in the Ripon contest. The Indians also capitalized on free throws and had the advantage, getting to go to the line 29 times to Escalon's 18.

"I told the guys after to not forget it, but move past it," Louro said of the loss, noting that the varsity squad needs to be focused to play out the rest of the TVL campaign strong to secure a better seed for the postseason.

"We have no margin for error, we have some dangerous games coming up and we need to be focused," he said.

The Cougars are scheduled to host Hughson on Friday, Feb. 11, travel to Hilmar for a game on Feb. 15, then wrap up the regular season with a home game against Modesto Christian on Friday, Feb. 18.