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Varsity Cougars Kick Off League With Win
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A pair of wins came after a road loss for the varsity Cougar boys on the basketball court this week, as they closed out preseason play and began Trans-Valley League action.

Tuesday, Jan. 4, the boys were on the road at Calaveras and lost to the host squad, 52-44.

"That's a tall team and they did a nice job against us," said coach Mike Backovich. "They shot well, they were prepared, we just shot terribly."

Marcus Savage had the best night for the Cougars, the only player in double figures with 13 points. Marc Backovich and Grant Goedhart put in nine points each.

Backovich said the good part about the game is that it didn't count in the power point ratings so the loss won't factor in to any future playoff seeding for the Cougars.

Friday, the team took the home court for a game against Linden and, in front of a hugely supportive Escalon crowd, took a 55-46 win.

Backovich said there were a few things about the contest that surprised him, not the least of which was the attitude that the visiting Lions brought to the table.

"I really felt they were bitter, I don't know if it was a carryover from football or not," Backovich said.

The Lions defeated Escalon in the semifinal round of the football playoffs in November, but lost at UOP in the finals.

"I was looking at this game as a basketball coach, not a football coach, but I really felt there was some bitterness there," Backovich said. "From their coach to their fans."

Linden played an aggressive game as well but the Cougars were successful in shutting down their point guard, Eric Federico, and taking the Lions out of their game plan.

"Marc took him out of the game and that's his job, to get their best player out of the game," explained the coach. "He gets in people's faces and frustrates them."

The Cougars got balanced scoring on Friday, with 12 points from Grant Goedhart - all on 3-pointers - and 15 points from Steve Gentry. Backovich had eight.

"I was real happy that a lot of people got to play, with 6:40 to go in the third quarter, we emptied our bench and it was a special night because it was only our second game at home and we had a crowd," said Backovich.

The varsity ran out to a 39-19 halftime lead on the strength of a 26-11 run in the second quarter. They increased the edge to 50-29 after three quarters and then withstood a rally attempt by the Lions to hold on for the win.

"My goal was to get people in the game," Backovich said. "We were able to do that."

Saturday, the Cougars opened up the Trans-Valley League campaign with a thrilling and satisfying win over Patterson, 55-52.

"We came out and played well, we had a seven-point halftime lead and we didn't have a lot of fouls," Backovich pointed out. "That was key in the game, Patterson shoots really well from the line and not putting them in a position to shoot from the line was key."

Big man for the Cougars in the contest was Andrew Beam, who had his best game of the season, both offensively and defensively. He poured in 13 points and was called on to match up against the bigger Patterson players.

"We bounced our guards around on people, Marcus Savage did a great job rebounding, in his 5-10 body, he plays 6-2, 6-3 on the boards," added Backovich. "Patterson is a very good team, and very tall also, our guys did a fantastic job defensively."

The coach also said the Saturday turnout was great and he was extremely pleased to see the crowd support the Cougars both in the Friday and Saturday games. The team also was pumped up by making their entrance to a song written and performed by senior Israel Flores, a song that Backovich intends to use throughout the season.

The victory over Patterson to start the league season was even sweeter, since the Cougars had lost to them in the Orestimba Tournament.

"It was real fun to win," admitted Backovich.

The boys will be on the road, playing at Hughson, on Thursday, Jan. 13 and then host Ripon on Tuesday, Jan. 18.