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Varsity Boys Winless In Week's Three Hoop Contests

They show flashes of being a team to be reckoned with ... but they also go through brief periods of panic where they seem to let another team take control ... and the result has been a difficult season for Escalon's varsity Cougar boys on the basketball court.

The squad went 0-for-3 in Trans-Valley League play this week, losing two games at home and one on the road.

"It was a pretty bummer week," agreed head coach Martin Louro, who saw his team fall to Modesto Christian, Ripon Christian and Riverbank.

They were at home to host Modesto Christian on Tuesday, Jan. 22 and things started out well enough, with the Cougars keeping the game close in the early going.

"We were hanging with them in the first half, down by 13 at the half," Louro said. "We were beating their press, getting some easy buckets, they pulled that off in the second half."

The final score was 99-54 in favor of Modesto Christian, and the Crusaders had a 47-34 lead at the half. They went on to add 52 points over the final two quarters, while Escalon managed just 20 over the 16 minutes.

"We just are having a hard time putting the ball in the hole," Louro explained. "It's not that we're not getting good looks, we just have too many chip shots. We're getting shots we want, getting good looks, they just won't go down."

Turnovers have also been troublesome for the varsity squad this season and they continued to give MC some points off those miscues.

"It seems like any time we make a run, we shoot ourselves in the foot," admitted Louro. "Then we get too quick, they get out of their comfort zone and start to get a little out of control."

The Cougars can't sustain the fast paced game, but Louro said they almost go into panic mode when they fall behind and try to speed the game up in an attempt to come back fast.

But that has backfired, he said, so they need to stay composed and stay with their game plan.

In the MC game, the Crusaders roared out to a 31-17 lead, then Escalon outscored them 17-16 in the second quarter. The Crusaders poured it on with a 25-11 run in the third, 27-9 in the fourth to put the game away.

"The most frustrating part is that we spend a lot of time at practice working on things," Louro said of ball control, making good passes and taking good shots. "It's just that it's not translating into games."

James Harrison had 12 points to lead Escalon against MC, with 10 points from Brandon Shaw and eight from John Segale coming off the bench. Everyone in the line up that day got in the scorebook.

"Thursday at Ripon Christian, I knew it would be tough, a close game," Louro said. "It started shaping up like the first time we played them, they had a little lead at the half, we closed the gap, we cut their lead to 3 points in the fourth but then had to start fouling and they made some free throws."

Trailing 14-13 after one quarter, Escalon was down 28-19 at the half. They put in seven points to Ripon Christian's nine in the third quarter and had a 20-15 fourth quarter scoring edge but fell by a 52-46 decision.

"We made it interesting," Louro said. "It still seems to be that they can't play the full 32 minutes ... they're playing hard for 32 minutes but they're not always executing."

Armando Becerra had his best game for the Cougars this season despite the loss, pouring in 16 points. Spencer Franceschetti added 12 points - all on 3-pointers - with nine from Harrison and five from Mike Martinelli.

In the Saturday game, Riverbank took a 20-14 lead after one quarter, but Escalon regained the lead with a 16-5 run in the second, up 30-25 at the half.

On the strength of a 14-5 run in the third, the visiting Bruins took a 39-35 lead to open the fourth quarter and walked off with a 55-46 win, outscoring Escalon 16-11 in the pivotal final frame.

"Riverbank didn't do anything different in the second half, we just didn't execute," Louro said.

His team reacted to some defensive pressure by the Bruins by getting out of that 'comfort zone' they have, Louro said, by trying some long passes to the open man near the bucket, but then missing the lay up or having the long pass turned over and brought down by the Bruins for an easy score.

Louro said his toughest battle right now is getting the team into a winning frame of mind.

"They haven't really experienced a whole lot of success," he said. "Getting them to believe is a little bit of an issue. If things go right, they're afraid to believe it and if things start to go wrong they think, 'here we go again'."

Harrison and Becerra led the scoring with 10 points apiece, while Harrison also had four blocks. The Cougars, however, need to get more points on the board as they start the final round of TVL play in order to get a few more wins.

"Only one game this year have we scored 60 points or more," Louro noted. "If we can't score points, we're not going to beat anybody."

After hosting Hughson on Jan. 29, after The Times went to press, the Cougars will be on the road Friday, Feb. 1 at Ripon to start the final round of league play.

"We have to play solid defense, hold the other teams to a decent number we can attain," Louro said. "We want to be the spoiler, pick up a couple more wins and build on that."