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Varsity Boys - Cougars Put Two In TVL Win Column
In what coach Martin Louro classified as a hugely important week - even though it was only the first full week of competition for his team in the Trans-Valley League season - Escalon's varsity boys came home with two wins from games at Ripon and Orestimba.

On Tuesday, they traveled to face the Indians and took a 58-48 decision off the court.

"That was the first varsity (Escalon) win in Ripon's new gym, the first win in at least eight or nine years," Louro said.

Escalon came out with a mission in mind, outscoring the host team 19-9 in the first quarter. They had a 25-19 lead at the half and were able to maintain the lead and build on it in the second half.

"You hate to say it's a 'must win' game when it's only the second game of the league season but after the loss to Riverbank, this was pretty much a must win," Louro said. "It was the first time all year that we came out strong and it really was just a good game, a good team effort, good defensive effort."

There was also the play from the bench, which came up huge for Escalon. Leading scorer was Ryan Bartelink who had three 3's and a crucial 4-point play late, coming off the bench to spark the team. Brian Gregorio added 11 points and Gino Franceschetti chipped in nine.

Escalon sealed the win with a 19-13 scoring edge in the final quarter.

They were back on the road for a Friday game, taking on Orestimba. The Warriors hung tough with the Cougars for the entire first half, with the teams knotted 24-24.

Orestimba had a 13-7 lead after one, but Escalon fired back with a 17-11 run in the second quarter.

"I was worried about a drop off after the win in Ripon and it happened, we came out really flat," Louro said, noting that his team should have had no problem with the overmatched Warriors.

At halftime, Louro said he just let his players know they were "way too good" to let Orestimba stay with them and it was up to them to turn it around or risk losing to a team they could easily beat.

The squad pulled together and went on to play a much smarter game in the second half, pouring in 44 points over the final two periods to the 21 scored by Orestimba, for the 68-45 final.

"Gino had 20 points, all in the second half, and he had four 3's which were nothing but net," Louro explained. "Hopefully that gets his confidence up, we're going to need him down the stretch."

He also showed no ill effects from a blow to the forehead late in the Ripon game, another good sign for the team.

Patrick Mulry had 15 points on the night, 13 of those in the first half and he added three treys as well. Gregorio chipped in 13 points to the total.

"In the second quarter, Trey Phillips came off the bench and sparked us, he had a couple of steals, a couple of rebounds," Louro said.

Getting out with the win was important, with the Cougars now back in the mix with a 2-1 mark in league play.

They were scheduled to be at home against Hughson on Tuesday, after The Times went to press and head to Hilmar to take on the Yellowjackets at their Homecoming on Friday night.

Given the history between the schools with football already this school year, and many of the same athletes now on the hardwood, Louro said he anticipates a large crowd on both sides.

"I expect us to travel well," he said.