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Varsity Basketball Boys Fall Just Short Against Riverbank
Escalon senior Brad DaDalt, 20, gets some air while shooting a two-pointer in the third quarter of last Friday’s varsity boys basketball game in Riverbank. A close game with the score tied many times through the fourth quarter, the Cougars ended up just short, 67-64, at the end of the evening. Ric McGinnis/The Times
Cougar varsity player Colton Panero, 15, drives past a defender at the Friday, Jan. 25 Trans-Valley League game in Riverbank. The game was the first one in the second round of league play for Escalon and they took a tough loss to the host Bruins. Ric McGinnis/The Times

An exciting environment, a hard fought battle in a key Trans-Valley League game … but unfortunately, it wasn’t a win for Escalon’s varsity Cougar basketball boys.

Opening up the second half of TVL play on the road, the boys headed to nearby Riverbank on Friday, Jan. 25 for the contest. It was Homecoming for Riverbank and the crowd was treated to an old fashioned hoops battle on the court.

“It was a pretty high caliber game,” Escalon head coach Nate Bartelink said of the contest, which went down as a tough 67-64 loss for the Cougars. “It was just a great environment and there was a lot at stake, a potential playoff spot.”

Escalon is still within striking distance of the playoffs but need to get wins themselves and likely a little help from other teams to make it happen.

Early on, the Cougars strayed away from their main assignment, which was to keep Riverbank’s Robert Cunha under control and limit his opportunities.

“He got loose for three 3’s in the first quarter, we didn’t follow the game plan,” Bartelink admitted. “Then we had a good run in the second quarter and tied it up.”

The host Bruins were up 17-12 after one but it was 31-31 at halftime. A 23-18 edge for Escalon in the third quarter gave them the lead headed into the final frame, up 54-49.

“I felt it could have been more, Riverbank had a player foul out with a technical late in the third quarter with the score tied, we had four free throws and the ball and only came away with one point,” Bartelink said. “If we could’ve come away with more points there, it could’ve swung the momentum in our favor even more.”

Still, the Cougars were able to get a few more points in that third quarter than the home team and had the five-point lead on the road.

It then came down to converting some free throws down the stretch and the host Bruins were better at the line than the Cougars.

“They were 11-for-12 in the fourth quarter,” Bartelink said of the Bruins, with seven of those 11 put in by Cunha.

Escalon was 5-for-9 and it was a defensive play where the Cougars were called for a foul on Cunha that put him on the line late in the game, where he helped seal the win for the Bruins.

“It was not due to lack of effort,” Bartelink added of taking the loss, noting his players gave everything they had in the contest, playing hard until the final whistle.

“We wanted it, so did Riverbank,” the coach pointed out. “I’m disappointed in the outcome but not the effort.”

Escalon had a trio of players in double figures on the night.

“Brad DaDalt had 18 points and seven rebounds, Kam DeWeerd had 17 points and seven rebounds,” Bartelink said.

Brenden Holmes added 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out of the game with about 3:30 to play.

“Kaidence Trejo had nine points, including a big 3-pointer to tie the game with about a minute left,” added Bartelink. “Colton Panero and Frank Leal had four points apiece and again played good defense.”

Escalon dropped to 3-4 in league play with the loss and are 9-14 overall. They still have a shot at the playoffs.

“We’re not out of the race but we need some help,” Bartelink said.

The team will be busy with three games this week. They were scheduled to host Ripon Christian (TVL leader) on Tuesday, Jan. 29 after The Times went to press and will be at Ripon on Thursday, Jan. 31. They will be on the home court for a Friday night game, Feb. 1, hosting Livingston with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff time.

Bartelink said Friday will also be Youth Night, with players in the Cub Basketball program and those that play for El Portal Middle School getting in free if they wear their basketball jersey.