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Varsity boys earn TVL split, win non-league hoop contest
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Shown during recent action on the road at Riverbank, varsity player Sam Jimenez had another strong week for the Cougars as they won two out of three contests on the basketball court. The squad defeated Ripon Christian and Beyer but fell to Ripon. Times Photo By Ric McGinnis

In a week that saw the team run the gamut of emotions within a 72-hour span, Escalon’s varsity basketball boys split their two Trans-Valley League contests and defeated Beyer in non-league play.

Starting out the week at home on Wednesday, Jan. 10 against Ripon Christian, it came down to the last shot of the game – literally a buzzer beater by Ryan Lewis – that sealed the win for the host Cougars.

The final score was 64-62 Escalon.

“Ripon Christian had won 24 of its last 25 TVL games coming into this game, claiming the last two league titles. They are the title favorite until someone takes it from them,” said varsity head coach Nate Bartelink. “They always have really good players, their size is always a challenge to play against, and they are very well coached. We knew we had to play our best game up until this point in the season to win.”

With a big crowd on hand, Bartelink said the Cougars “showed up in a big way” and were locked in from the opening tip off.

“Ryan Lewis and Ryan Murphy did a good job defending their 6’9” post player, holding him below his season average in points. Our perimeter defenders did everything in their power to make their shooters shoot contested shots, but give RC credit, they shot the ball very well,” noted Bartelink. “They made 10 three-pointers, which kept them in the game.”

Escalon was able to rebound effectively, despite the size of the Ripon Christian team, the Cougars holding their own on the boards.

“Most importantly, we took care of the basketball, giving us a chance each offensive possession. We only had two turnovers the entire game. I have never had a team have that few turnovers in a game,” Bartelink added.

Escalon outscored the visiting Knights in three of the four quarters.

“We had good offensive contributions from several players; Ethan Garza, Ryan Lewis, Sam Jimenez, Ben Ferreira and Ben Fletcher all scored at least eight points,” said Bartelink. “We got big shots from multiple guys and even though RC was shooting it better than us, we made just enough shots throughout, while also doing a pretty good job turning over RC.”

Escalon had a two-point lead with about eight seconds left and there was what Bartelink termed a questionable foul call on an RC three-point attempt. Their player made the first two shots to tie the game at 62.

“I then called a timeout to try to ice the shooter and also discuss what we’d be doing on a make or miss,” said the coach.

The RC player missed the third free throw attempt and Jimenez pulled down the big rebound. Bartelink said he decided not to call a timeout then, not wanting to give RC a chance to set up their defense.

“I trusted our guys,” he said. “After Sammy’s rebound, we moved the ball up the floor with a few passes. Ethan looked to be trying to find a shot, but at the last second found Ryan Lewis under the basket unguarded. Ryan quickly got the shot off and made it, as the buzzer sounded, and the student section rushed the floor. There was a lot of emotion that was released, especially after the Riverbank loss.”

The big win was a satisfying one all the way around, said Bartelink.

“With RC’s recent dominance of the TVL, we have not beaten them in a few years. This one felt good for sure. It shows what can be accomplished with great effort and when we limit our turnovers, even if the opponent is shooting the ball well,” he pointed out. “I was beyond proud of the team. This was a game and an ending that I’ll never forget.”

Ethan Garza was the leading scorer with 18 points and he added four assists. Ryan Lewis had 15 points, six rebounds; Sam Jimenez had 13 points, five rebounds and five steals. Ben Fletcher added eight points, five assists in the win, while Ben Ferreira put in eight points.

Coming off that win, it was a tough loss on the road Friday night, as the Cougars fell at Ripon by a 52-49 final.

“Coming into the game, Ripon was 3-0 in TVL, had just beat Riverbank by 20 points, was on an eight game win streak, and ranked number six in our division. We knew we were in for a battle,” Bartelink said. “I thought all of those things, on top of it being our league rival, would’ve given us the necessary motivation and focus. Given the opponent and the circumstances, we couldn’t have had a worse start. There was a lack of focus and we didn’t match Ripon’s force.”

The visiting Cougars were down 16-8 after the first quarter and though they had a stronger second quarter, they still trailed at the half, 31-21.

Second half play showcased a more cohesive and determined Escalon squad early, but they couldn’t sustain it all the way through in the hostile Ripon gym.

“We played a great third quarter and continued to chip away. We eventually took a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but we finished about as poorly as we started the game,” explained Bartelink. “We were especially careless with the basketball early and late in the game when we needed to be at our best. We had two critical turnovers in the last few possessions that cost us the game, not giving us the chance to get a shot off.”

And though the effort fell short, the coach said he was proud of how his team battled back and took the lead, but added “we can’t dig ourselves a double-digit deficit against a good team on the road. We need to be better during critical moments.”

Noting that the players and coaching staff were very disappointed after the game, Bartelink said Jimenez, as one of the team captains, also took the opportunity to say some words to the team in the postgame locker room.

“I felt his message and trust he’s going to do everything within his power to follow through on what he said,” Bartelink said.

Daniel Gonzalez paced the team with 11 points at Ripon, and Logan Huebner was also in double figures with 10 points. Garza and Ferreira had seven points apiece, Fletcher had six points, Lewis added six points and six rebounds.

Doubling back with a Saturday early evening game, the varsity squad hosted Beyer and came away with the hard fought 56-55 victory.

“This was our last non-league game on our schedule. I had to back load a lot of our games, expecting the football players to play well into December. It was good to play this type of opponent later in our season,” Bartelink said. “During TVL play, we don’t see the type of pace and athleticism that Beyer typically possesses. Hopefully playing in this game serves us well if we see a similar style in a month when the playoffs start.”

He pointed to the play of Logan Huebner as being key to the win.

“He played with extreme effort. His multiple effort plays led to so many good things for us. Sam Jimenez and Ben Fletcher also brought a lot of toughness, which was important to our success,” Bartelink said.

The Cougars got to the free throw line and made good on those opportunities; 14-for-17 overall, including hitting seven of eight in the fourth quarter with five out of six put in by Jimenez.

“Big three-point shots were hit throughout the game by Sam Jimenez, Ethan Garza, Jacob Augusto, Ben Ferreira and Cam Dalpogetti. It was a back and forth game the entire time; I think there were five or six ties and eight or nine lead changes,” said Bartelink.

Trailing by a point with about 30 seconds left, Garza got a steal and passed the ball to Jimenez, who was fouled with 15 seconds left.

“Sam calmly knocked down both free throws, giving us a one point lead. We were able to get a stop and hold on for the win,” Bartelink said. “It was a gritty win, against a good team. I was very proud of how the boys responded after losing to Ripon less than 24 hours the night before.”

With the win, the team’s non-league record ended up being 14-2, with some quality wins against good competition.

Leading the way in the Beyer game was Jimenez, with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, with eight points in the final two minutes of the contest.

“He backed up his words in the locker room after the Ripon loss. He put us on his back the last few minutes of the game and carried us to victory,” Bartelink said.

Fletcher had 10 points and five rebounds; Garza notched eight points and had five rebounds, with Augusto scoring six points. Huebner contributed seven points, 13 rebounds, five assists and created four turnovers.

“We’re at our best when Logan is doing all of the little things for us. He has the ability to fill up the stat sheet,” Bartelink said.

The varsity squad ended the week at 15-4 overall, 1-2 in TVL.

“This was an emotional week. The extreme highs and lows of competitive sports,” Bartelink said, adding that the Cougars have another hectic week ahead.

Having just come through the TVL gauntlet of Riverbank, RC and Ripon, the team was to host Livingston on Tuesday and will travel to Hughson for a Thursday night game.

Then, they will host Hilmar on Friday, Jan. 19 for Winter Homecoming.

“We fully expect to play well and take care of business,” said Bartelink.



It was a very tough week for the junior varsity Cougars, as they took losses in all three of their contests. They fell at home to Ripon Christian, 67-46, on Wednesday, were defeated 67-48 by Ripon in a road game Friday and then closed out the week with a 79-64 loss to Beyer in non-league action. They are 1-2 in league and 7-12 overall.

The freshmen lost to Ripon Christian and Ripon in Trans-Valley League play and are 0-3 in league but did get the bounce back win over Beyer in the Saturday afternoon contest. They are 9-10 overall and face off this week with Livingston, Hughson and Hilmar.

“Wednesday against RC at home we fell short after a really great effort from our guys,” said coach Steve Largent. “We were down a few players which hindered us. Despite that we were right there in the end but fell short 45-36.”

Curtis Thomas provided some great minutes, said the coach, stepping up big time for his team.

“Friday at Ripon we had a sluggish start in the first quarter but played with Ripon the rest of the way but could not overcome our poor start,” Largent added.

The final was 51-37 for Ripon, with Escalon’s scoring led by K’Oz Castro, putting in 10 points.

Getting back in the win column Saturday, the frosh boys were placed by Ezra Rameno, putting in 15 points, including going 11-for-14 from the free throw line.

“Cole Fox played a great game battling in the post for us,” said Largent. “Logan Castellanos, Noah Martin and Drew Hagan put in solid defensive performances and contributed to the 42-38 win over the Patriots.”

The freshmen play just Tuesday and Thursday this week; they will take on Hilmar in a road game next Monday, Jan. 22.