Escalon’s junior varsity basketball boys went 0-for-3 in the Escalon Tournament in the week between Christmas and New Year, but head coach Brandon Hoover said he was proud of the team’s effort.
With a starting five that includes just one sophomore and four freshmen, the coach said the team is definitely taking its lumps so far this season but the experience they are gaining will pay dividends down the road.
“It doesn’t matter the record, these kids play hard and they keep playing,” Hoover said.
Thursday, Dec. 26 the JV Cougars opened up the three-day tournament by taking on Bret Harte. The final was a 57-43 loss for Escalon but Matt Silva and Jack Anderson each had 11 points. Desean Owens added eight.
“We got a lot of open looks,” Hoover noted, adding that they had a hard time getting the shots to fall.
Still, he said, this was the second time the JV boys had faced Bret Harte this season and the first time, they lost by 25 points.
Friday, the squad matched up against Modesto High School and battled all the way to a 66-62 loss.
Leading 19-14 after one period, the JV Cougars had a 29-28 edge at the half. Modesto came out firing in the second half and outscored Escalon 32-15 in the third quarter to take a 60-44 lead into the final frame. Modesto’s only points in the fourth quarter came on free throws, with most of them in the final two minutes when Escalon had to start fouling. The JV Cougars outscored Modesto 18-6 in that final quarter but just fell a little bit short.
“That was our best game of the season,” Hoover admitted. “We found the open man and knocked down some shots. We had seven 3’s in the first quarter and Jack Anderson had five of them in that quarter; he had 30 points overall.”
Freshman Anderson had seven treys for the game.
Late in the fourth, the JV boys cut the deficit to 61-59 but then had to foul and Modesto made the most of their opportunities at the line to hold off the determined Cougars.
“It was a fast paced game and the kids just kept playing hard,” Hoover said.
Closing out the holiday week tournament on Saturday against Merced, it was a 61-51 loss.
“They were extremely physical, they have three varsity football players on their JV basketball team and they were the biggest team we’ve seen all year,” noted Hoover. “Aidan Burke and Mark Valente had six rebounds each, I was real proud of how they played, they matched the physicality.”
Owens had 17 points to lead the team offensively.
The coach said the tournament was a good one for his team in that they played against tough opponents and gave a strong effort in each contest. Named to the All-Tournament Team was Matt Silva.
“He’s our lone sophomore starter,” Hoover said, with freshmen Jack Anderson, Desean Owens, Logan Anderson and Zack Valencia rounding out the starting five.
“He played his best stretch of basketball (in the tournament) and he’s like having a coach out there on the court for me,” Hoover added regarding Silva.
The team is scheduled to host Argonaut on Thursday, Jan. 2 at 5:30 p.m. and travel to Summerville for a Friday night game, Jan. 3.
Salvaging one game out of three, the youngest Cougars were busy on the basketball court for tournament play this past week as well.
With a 5-5 mark entering the Escalon Tournament, the frosh boys are now 6-7 for the campaign.
They opened up with a 56-42 loss to Johansen on Thursday, Dec. 26. Friday, they lost to Ripon Christian 58-40.
“They are large for a freshman team,” head coach David Anderson said of the Knights.
He pointed to the efforts of Ayden Wilson and Julian Borrego as leading the team, with Borrego usually the top scorer and Wilson providing a presence under the basket, pulling down the rebounds as well as being close behind Borrego on the score sheet.
Taking on Argonaut in the finale on Saturday afternoon, the freshmen came away with a 50-46 win. They ran out to a 17-10 lead in the first and held on to a slim 27-24 lead at the half, Argonaut hitting a trey at the halftime buzzer to trim the lead to three points.
A 41-37 Escalon lead after three quarters gave the young team the edge and, after the teams traded points in the fourth, the frosh Cougars had the four-point win in hand. After Argonaut cut the deficit to 49-46 on a 3-point shot, Borrego sank a late free throw to make it a two-possession game.
Borrego had 26 points in the win including four 3’s and Wilson added 14.
“It was a little bit of a struggle,” Anderson admitted, though pleased that his team held off the Mustangs to get one tournament win. “Julian and Ayden did the scoring; Colton Page played excellent defense the whole tournament.”
The freshmen kick off a trio of home games with a 4 p.m. tip off against Argonaut on Thursday night, Jan. 2 and travel to Summerville for Friday, Jan. 3 action.