A satisfying, exciting week of work saw Escalon’s varsity basketball boys put four games in the win column and earn the championship at the round robin Denair Tournament.
“I was hoping we could get three out of four and we ended up getting all four,” head coach Nate Bartelink said of the squad getting on a roll and reeling off four straight victories.
They started the week at Amador on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
“It was our best game of the year, it was a 55-44 win and the guys stayed with the game plan,” Bartelink said. “It was a great defensive effort from our guys, they didn’t give their (Amador’s) shooters much room.”
Rolling out to a 15-8 lead after one and 31-21 at the half, the Cougars were up by a 43-28 margin after three quarters. Amador outscored them in the final frame, cashing in on a few late shots but not able to close the gap.
“Brenden Holmes hit his first shots of the game, he had 25 points and eight rebounds,” Bartelink said.
Kameron DeWeerd added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Colton Panero did a good job providing some energy off the bench, he had seven points,” Bartelink said.
Panero, who had to sit out all last season with an injury, has been slowly getting his basketball legs under him and provided good minutes against Amador.
Then it was off to the Denair Tournament for games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Since it was a round robin tournament, all the opponents were scheduled in advance, with Escalon taking on Big Valley Christian, Turlock Christian and Denair.
“Thursday it came down to a buzzer beater, Kam DeWeerd hit a two-point shot at the buzzer to give us the win,” explained Bartelink. “It was a situation where Brenden made the right read and Kam made the play.”
Escalon had the lead, 21-14, after one quarter but trailed by two at the half, 34-32. A 16-13 run for Escalon in the third gave the Cougars back the lead, 48-47, and it took the last second shot by DeWeerd to come away with the 59-57 win.
DeWeerd had 25 points in the game, including seven 3-point shots, along with nine rebounds. Holmes had 21 points and nine rebounds while Dylan Ruiz added six points on a pair of treys.
On Friday, it was a 48-31 win for Escalon over Turlock Christian and it was a game where they led throughout the contest, including a strong 17-5 run in the opening frame. Building up a 31-12 lead at the half, Bartelink started substituting players frequently.
“We tried to get all the reserves some time, reward them for the hard work in practice,” he said, noting that all 14 players got on the court at some point during the game.
Holmes again was the team leader with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Clayton Ferreira had eight points off the bench, including two 3’s and Brad DaDalt had seven points along with taking two charges.
“Saturday we saw Denair and we beat them, 56-49. I thought they were the best team in the tournament besides us,” Bartelink said.
Escalon had the lead after one quarter and also held a slight edge, 25-24, at the half. Denair turned the tables with a 17-12 run in the third, leaving the Cougars trailing 41-37 entering the final quarter.
“That fourth quarter was our best of the year,” Bartelink noted of outscoring host Denair 19-8 to take the victory. “We played good defense and their best shooter scored only four points.”
Typically, the coach added, that player hits around three baskets from 3-point range each game but only attempted that many, as the defense kept him frustrated.
“Frank Leal guarded their best overall player and he just did a great job,” Bartelink pointed out. “Mikey Carroll came off the bench and had a big fourth quarter.”
Important rebounds were pulled down by Carroll in that frame and he also added four points. Ruiz hit a pair of 3’s while Holmes had 24 points to lead the team. DeWeerd had 18 points and eight rebounds.
“That was a big confidence booster for us, after starting 1-6,” Bartelink said.
Now with five wins and six losses for the preseason campaign, the boys came home from the tournament with the championship plaque, Tournament MVP honors for Holmes and All-Tournament Team honors for DeWeerd.
The varsity boys were scheduled to play against Atwater on Monday and Argonaut on Wednesday to close out the preseason schedule, then open up Trans-Valley League play hosting Riverbank on Friday, Dec. 21.