Home against Hughson and on the road at Hilmar, it was a successful week for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys.
“We escaped with two hard fought victories,” said head coach Nate Bartelink.
The two wins helped Escalon get back to .500 in Trans-Valley League play, improving to 3-3 and closing out the first round with the road win against the Yellowjackets.
First, though, they opened the week by hosting Hughson on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
“Give them credit, they played better than their record, gave us everything they had,” Bartelink said of the Huskies, who battled to the end in a 55-54 win for Escalon.
The host Cougars took a comfortable 16-6 lead after one quarter but Hughson turned the tables in the second, doubling up the home team 20-10, leaving the teams knotted 26-26 at the half.
A 19-10 edge for Hughson in the third saw Escalon trailing, 45-36 entering the final frame and they outscored the Huskies 19-9 over the final eight minutes to put the win on the books.
“We went on an 8-0 run to start the third, then they went on a 19-0 run and hit five 3’s in that time,” Bartelink said of the seesaw battle in the second half. “Then we dug in, got stops, found ways to make plays.”
The game came down to the last possession and it went the Cougars’ way. Kam DeWeerd hit a two-point bucket with eight seconds left to seal the victory.
“It was a stressful game,” the coach admitted, but one his Cougars battled to capture.
Brenden Holmes had 20 points and eight rebounds, hitting four 3’s on the night. DeWeerd had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Brad DaDalt added six points and Clayton Ferreira had five.
Friday at Hilmar, the Cougars looked to keep the momentum going. They were down after one, 16-13, but came on strong in the second to lead it 33-25 at the half.
“It was a difficult environment, it was their Homecoming and they had quite the crowd there,” Bartelink said.
Given the history between the schools – especially the football rivalry of recent years – the Cougars looked to have a little extra motivation. Colton Panero was out with the flu and a couple other players were unavailable so the squad had a bit of a depleted roster but gutted out the victory.
Hilmar had an 8-6 edge in the third, Escalon hanging on to a 39-33 lead into the fourth. The Yellowjackets outscored the Cougars 10-9 in the fourth and at one time trailed just 45-43, but late free throws by Holmes put the game in the win column for Escalon.
“It was a well-earned victory,” Bartelink said.
Holmes had 15 points to lead the way, DeWeerd had 13 points and nine rebounds, Providing some solid minutes were Kaidence Trejo and Frank Leal, with both adding four points and DaDalt had four points in the win as well.
Escalon is now 9-13 overall and 3-3 in league. They had their league bye on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Second half action starts on the road, the Cougars heading to Riverbank on Friday, Jan. 25.
“That will be another tough one,” Bartelink said.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday.