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Varsity Boys Prepare For Playoff Opener
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Playoff action is next for Escalon's varsity basketball boys, the squad ready to host Central Catholic in action tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

The Cougars tuned up for the playoffs with a Tuesday win at Ripon Christian, but faltered in a loss Friday at Hilmar in overtime.

Tuesday, the boys held on for a 55-46 victory at Ripon Christian.

"In the second half, we had some good free throw shooting," noted coach Mike Backovich. "We were 6-for-8 from the line right at the end, that put it out of reach."

The Cougars took a 15-12 lead in the first quarter, host RC battled back to take a 25-24 lead at the half. A strong run by the Cougars gave them the lead after three and they kept the Knights at arm's length in the final frame to take the win.

"Jonny Norton had a great game defensively and offensively, he shut down one of their best players and just had his best game of the season," said Backovich. "Our perimeter play defensively was good by Marcus Savage and Marc Backovich and we were just more physical than they were."

Backovich pointed to the inside effort of Nate Williamson as also being key.

"He stepped up and did a good job defensively, Steve Gentry got into some foul trouble and Nate came on," the coach said.

Four players were in double figures for Escalon in the win, paced by Norton's 14-point performance. Gentry had 11, Savage and Backovich had 10 each.

"Very balanced scoring, four guys in double figures," noted Backovich.

Friday, the boys headed to Hilmar for the regular season finale and came away with a 60-54 loss, dropping the contest in overtime.

The performance was lackluster, said the coach, the varsity boys not able to find the groove.

"We did not rebound, we were in foul trouble, they ran a ton of high screens on us, did some isolation," explained Backovich. "We had no baskets in overtime, we were just 4-for-10 in free throws."

Bright spot of the game was the 3-point shot from Grant Goedhart that tied it in regulation, sending the contest to the extra period. But host Hilmar poured in 10 points to Escalon's four in the overtime.

"Wanting to win is one thing, execution is another," said Backovich. "I was very disappointed in our effort on defense and the way we shot free throws...those two things were non-existent."

Backovich admitted to basically chewing out the squad at halftime for their subpar performance.

"There was no talking on defense, no hustle, no diving on the floor for loose balls," he said. "I'm hoping this was a wake-up call for us."

Goedhart had 13 points to lead the team, Savage put in 12 but they were the only two players in double figures.

The team will try to regroup from the Friday loss as they prepare for the first round of the playoffs. They host Central Catholic at 7 p.m. tonight, Feb. 25.

"The good Lord makes everything happen for a reason," Backovich said, noting that the regular season finale hopefully woke the team up to the need to play better basketball to go anywhere in the playoffs.

Backovich said Central Catholic has some players he is familiar with, working with them previously during travel team play over the summer.

Central Catholic comes in at 16-7 overall, Escalon is 13-9. The Cougars get to stay home for the opening round of the Division IV playoffs by virtue of their eighth place ranking. Central Catholic, ranked ninth, travels to the contest.