It was a week where they needed to get two out of three. Hoping for a sweep, but knowing that two wins was more realistic. And that's what the varsity basketball boys did, getting even in Trans-Valley League play with wins over Hughson and Hilmar and a loss to top-ranked Modesto Christian.
The Cougars started the week with a home game against Hilmar on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
"I was a little concerned, Orestimba and Hilmar are not as good this year and I was afraid we might come out and play down a little," said Escalon head coach Martin Louro. "But we came out focused, played hard, we struggled early but the guys played hard."
Escalon won by a final score of 56-33, running out to a 13-4 first quarter edge and 26-11 at half. They finally found the scoring range in third quarter, putting the game out of reach with a 21-8 run.
Alec VonAlvensleben paced the varsity with 20 points.
"He was our only guy in double figures, next was Phillip Kimble with eight points," Louro said. "We're still really looking for someone to pick it up and be that next scorer."
The team remained without the services of Brian Gregorio, battling the effects of an earlier season injury.
Thursday, the boys went on the road to Hughson and battled to a 65-56 win, the Huskies giving them everything they had.
"Because we're so dominant in many things, we have a target on our back," Louro said of any team that puts on the Cougar uniform. "We're going to see everybody's best every night."
The coach said it was a 'scary' game going in because he knew Hughson would be well prepared and he didn't want his team looking ahead to the Friday night game with MC before Thursday's was in the books.
"We did what we had to do," Louro said. "They (Hughson) played the best game of their season. We'd get the lead to 14, they'd cut it to nine. We'd go up by 12, they'd cut it to six ... we just couldn't pull away."
Escalon led just 34-26 at halftime and were a point better than the Huskies over the final two periods to take their second win of the week.
"We played good and it took all we had," Louro said of getting the victory.
Again it was VonAlvensleben taking charge, this time with a huge 36-point night with four treys, 4-for-10 from the free throw line and 10 two-point baskets.
"As a team, we were 17-for-28 from the free throw line so if we had made a few more of those, we would have made it easier on ourselves," said Louro.
Converting on some key free throws down the stretch were Marvin Guillen, who had seven points overall; Ryan Bartelink and Stephen Silveira, who hit a pair of clutch throws in the fourth quarter.
At Modesto Christian on Friday, Louro said he knew the Crusaders were improved over last year but didn't realize how much they had elevated their defensive game until facing them. Host MC cruised to an 82-38 win, with the Cougars ending the week by hitting the .500 mark, going 3-3 for the first half of league play.
"We fought for loose balls, we fought for rebounds, we didn't play scared and I'm proud of the effort," Louro said. "They're just more athletic, bigger, stronger, faster and now they play defense."
MC was up 31-9 after one quarter, 58-23 at the half. VonAlvensleben had 19 points on the night, Owen Pangilinan added six.
"The second round is going to be huge," Louro said of needing a strong round to get to playoffs. Their only game this week is Friday, when they start the second half by hosting Riverbank as part of Winter Homecoming. Then they battle Ripon on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
"We have to split but we'd love to get both," Louro said. "Both are winnable games but neither one will be easy."