Putting victories against Bret Harte and Amador on the books, the Escalon varsity basketball boys have put together a couple of solid preseason efforts.
They were at Bret Harte on Tuesday, Nov. 22 and came away with a 50-34 victory.
“Slow start, possibly due to first game nerves,” said head coach Nate Bartelink. “Played much better in the second half; we outscored Bret Harte 27-13. Our defense was solid all game.”
Jack Anderson scored 14 points to lead the team in the opening contest and Zack Valencia put in eight. Newcomer Frank Richard Barrera, a transfer from Milpitas, added seven points.
The next night, the Cougars hosted Amador and that Nov. 23 game saw a running clock go into effect mid-third quarter as the host Escalon boys ran away with the 61-20 win.
“We were clearly more talented than Amador,” Bartelink noted. “We played well on both sides of the ball. Got defensive stops, which fueled our transition game, and the guys played very unselfish basketball. It was fun to watch.”
The balanced scoring attack saw four Cougars in double figures, Anderson putting in 16, Garza 14, Sammy Jimenez had 14 and Ben Fletcher added 11.
“We have also gotten very productive minutes from freshman Logan Huebner,” Bartelink said. “He’s able to impact the game in so many ways, which is not common for a freshman at the varsity level.”
Getting two wins is a satisfying way to start the season, the coach said, but the team knows there are bigger battles to come.
“The challenge will be to play at a similar level against better competition. The players are well aware of that,” explained Bartelink. “We graduated a couple very talented players from last year’s team, but the cupboard is not empty. Most of our guys put in a lot of work in the off-season. I’m excited to see how it translates as the season moves along.”
A trio of players has been crucial in the early going.
“Jack Anderson has taken his game to another level and no doubt will have an outstanding senior season,” Bartelink said. “Junior Ben Fletcher and senior Zack Valencia are a couple of key returners from last year’s team, while junior Ethan Garza and sophomore Sammy Jimenez are already making a significant impact in their first couple varsity games.”
Escalon’s JV and freshmen both lost on the road at Bret Harte to open the season; the JV team then defeated Amador 48-40 while the freshmen fell by five points in a hard fought contest.