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Varsity Boys Cap Off Homecoming With Big Victory
Tuesday night's league opener may have gone in the loss column for Escalon, but Modesto Christian had to play at the top of their game to get past the Cougars.

For head coach Martin Louro, that in itself is a bit of a victory.

"We had the toughest start to the league schedule," Louro said of his Cougars, who started off Trans-Valley League play against Modesto Christian and Ripon Christian, two top tier teams. "Ripon Christian took second place to MC last year and they are picked by many people to challenge Modesto Christian this year."

Escalon did lose on the road at Modesto Christian on Tuesday, but came back to put together one of their finest efforts in a victory over Ripon Christian at home on Friday night to celebrate Homecoming with a win.

At Modesto Christian on Tuesday, they lost an 85-62 decision but took an early lead, up by one, 18-17 after one quarter. Modesto Christian turned it up a notch and poured in 27 points in the second quarter, leading 44-26 at the half. They were a few points better than Escalon, 41-36 over the final two periods.

"We led after one but it took a lot of energy," Louro admitted of the early spurt by his team. "In the second quarter, they (MC) didn't do anything different but we had about a four-minute stretch in that second quarter where we just didn't do what we practiced, we didn't follow the game plan."

That allowed Modesto Christian just enough of an opening to get their game in gear.

"We made some 'maybe' passes and a fast team like that, they picked them off, we had five or six turnovers that started the fast break for them," Louro said. "They take advantage of your mistakes."

Tyler Schuurman had 15 points to lead the Cougars, while Nick Araujo and Brandon Shaw added nine apiece.

"We played them pretty even except in that one stretch," explained Louro.

And despite the loss, Louro said his team walked away knowing they had made a statement.

"I think the kids know they belong on the court with them, they gained some confidence and they know they have a chance," Louro said. "There wasn't any fear ... and I know we earned their respect, Modesto Christian had to play well to beat us."

The solid effort had the squad pumped up for its Friday night Homecoming and Ripon Christian came in a well-scouted team.

"I watched three tapes of Ripon Christian and went and watched them twice live," said Louro. "We devised a game plan we thought would work.

"Obviously we have a lot of respect for Ripon Christian, they're a very good team."

But RC is not that deep, suiting up just nine players, and they don't have the parity that Escalon does, with the play dropping off when some of the starting five are on the bench.

"Our goal was to tire them out," Louro said of wearing down the starters. "We wanted to make them run up and down the floor, not give them a chance to rest."

Another goal was to limit the offensive boards, working to keep the Knights to just one shot each time down the floor.

"We pretty much did that except for a point in the second quarter," Louro noted. "We did a good job considering our size."

Matched up against the much taller RC squad, the Cougars went up 18-15 after one quarter, and led 35-31 at the half. They extended the lead to 51-41 after three and ended the game with a 69-56 victory.

Midway through the second, the Cougars had opened up a 31-19 edge but then saw RC go to their big man, who engineered a 10-0 run and trimmed the lead to 31-29 with 1:52 left in the first half. Escalon cashed in on a couple of late free throws and had the 35-31 lead at the half, then went on a 6-0 run to open the third to get the lead back up to double digits, 41-31.

The Cougars were able to convert on some key fourth quarter free throws as well, from Gino Franceschetti, Shaw, Araujo and Travis Cardoza all finding the mark in the final 2:32, going 9-for-10 in that stretch.

Franceschetti and Shaw each put in 13 points in the win, leading four Cougar players in double figures. Schuurman had 12, with 11 from Araujo. Vince Aufdermaur chipped in with seven, including sinking a pair of free throws on a Ripon Christian technical foul in the fourth quarter.

Araujo drew praise from his coach for his effort on Friday night, working effectively at point guard and getting involved more in the scoring.

"He played the best game of his season so far on Friday night," Louro said.

The team as a whole played solid, enjoying the Homecoming victory.

Overall the team was 16-for-24 in free throws, but 12-for-13 in the final quarter, helping secure the win.

"That was big," Louro said of the fourth quarter percentage.

Escalon was slated to host Riverbank on Tuesday, after The Times went to press, and go on the road for a game at Hughson on Friday, Jan. 29 with a 7:30 p.m. tip off.