Some clutch efforts proved to be the difference for Escalon as the varsity basketball boys captured two non-league victories in back-to-back contests.
They hosted Argonaut on Thursday, Jan. 2 and defeated the Mustangs in a thrilling 61-58 victory.
The Cougars had opened up a 10-point lead at one time in the fourth quarter but the visitors kept their focus and tied the game with just over a minute left.
Escalon outscored Argonaut 17-15 in the first quarter and 16-14 in the second to lead it 33-29 at the half. The Mustangs had a one-point advantage, 13-12, in the third with the Cougars taking a 45-42 lead into the final frame.
After the Mustangs battled back to pull even, it was Brenden Holmes who came through for his team.
“Brenden had a big steal with under 10 seconds, he scored a lay-up off of his steal and got fouled and made the free throw,” said head coach Nate Bartelink.
The three-point play provided the final three-point margin of victory as Argonaut was unable to convert a chance at the other end of the court, failing to sink a shot in the closing seconds.
“Argonaut is a tough team to play against, they are always a top Division 5 team,” added Bartelink.
The Cougars shot well from beyond the arc, hitting a total of 12 shots from three-point range.
Holmes paced the team’s effort with 26 points including four treys; Dylan Ruiz had 17 points and hit five 3’s on the night; Russell Weinbrecht hit a trio of three-point shots and had a total of 16 points and seven rebounds.
“The three of them scored 58 of our points,” Bartelink said.
Ty Harris pulled down nine rebounds and also played some great defense, the coach added.
Friday, the team headed out on the road and took on Summerville, defeating the Bears by a 54-30 margin.
Bartelink said he was pleased with the road effort, which allowed him to get a lot of players on the court for some much-needed playing time.
The Cougars outscored Summerville 14-8 in the first quarter and doubled them up, 24-12, in the second for a 38-20 halftime edge. The second half saw the chance for bench players to take up the effort, and they outscored Summerville 8-4 in the third, 8-6 in the fourth.
Weinbrecht had 17 points on the night while Holmes chipped in with 16 points, all coming in the first half. Ruiz again had the hot hand from beyond the arc, hitting three 3’s for a total of nine points. Harris had four points and Bartelink said Dillon Watson came off the bench to provide some good minutes for the team, despite being under the weather.
“He worked hard,” noted Bartelink.
The team was scheduled to be at Orestimba on Tuesday, Jan. 7 for their final pre-season game, playing on the road after The Times went to press. On Friday, Jan. 10 the Cougars will open up the Trans-Valley League season on the road, traveling to face off with Riverbank.
“We need to keep the momentum going,” Bartelink said, noting that the team’s first three league games are against tough opponents in Riverbank, Ripon and Ripon Christian.
“We have some potential,” the coach said. “We just need to focus on what we do well and keep doing that.”