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Varsity Girls Notch Final Two Season Wins
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The second half of the season has been fun for head coach Gary Ball and assistant Steve French, as the varsity Lady Cougars basketball team has put together some solid games and gotten themselves into playoff position.

"We're playing better," coach Ball noted. "The girls have played their hearts out, it's a wonderful way to end the season."

The varsity girls had to go on the road for the final two regular season games, winning them both. They upended Ripon Christian on Monday, Feb. 14 by a 55-30 verdict and escaped from Hilmar with a 30-29 decision on Thursday.

"We jumped out on them in the first half," Ball explained of defeating Ripon Christian. "We got a lot of people in the ball game, it was a team we were supposed to beat and we did."

Escalon took a 12-6 lead after one quarter and pulled away to lead it 26-11 at the half. Host RC tried to rally and did put more points on the board than Escalon in the third quarter but the Lady Cougars answered with a solid 20-6 scoring edge over the final eight minutes.

Leading the way in the contest was Kacey Ball, scoring 15 points. Jen Costa added eight and Alyssa Guzman put in six, as did Kelly Colin.

"I'm just so proud of these girls," Ball said, noting that they regrouped after a bad stretch and pulled themselves to a respectable 7-7 mark in Trans-Valley League play. "They (Ripon) were just a little overmatched, the way we've been playing."

Ten different girls got involved with the scoring as the Lady Cougars took the win.

Thursday, they closed out the regular season at Hilmar and took a one-point decision off the court, despite being shut out for the entire third period.

"Against Hilmar, we knew to stay close and make something happen at the end," Ball said. "They're not very good offensively right now and they did not have a good shooting night at home."

Escalon was a basket better in an 11-9 opening frame, Hilmar took the lead at the half, 20-19.

"Kacey got in a little foul trouble but she came out on fire, she had eight of our 11 points in the first quarter," Ball said. "Then they put the full court pressure on, she got frustrated."

She ended up sitting out the final four minutes of the second quarter and part of the third, then came back in to run the offense and responded by putting together a contest that included 12 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists, silencing some taunts from the Hilmar crowd.

"Jen Costa hit two very big free throws to end the first half, we walked in the locker room knowing we were where we wanted to be," Ball said of trimming the Hilmar lead to one point.

The third quarter saw Escalon go cold, hitting for no baskets, but Hilmar couldn't take advantage, scoring just four points themselves to lead 24-19 after three periods.

The girls didn't panic, though, and got back in it, taking the win with an 11-5 scoring edge in the fourth quarter.

"Stephanie Williamson hit a big three-pointer in the middle of the fourth quarter to give us a lift," Ball said. "Sandi French tweaked a knee in the first quarter and had to sit out, Kelly Colin and Alyssa Guzman came on a did a great job, Kelly had five points, all in the first half."

Despite a bad night at the free throw line, hitting just 3-for-10, the Lady Cougars got the win.

"We finally got a couple of breaks," Ball said. "It was a wonderful ride back home from Hilmar."

Costa put in the final two baskets of the night for Escalon, giving them a 5-point lead with 1:20 to play.

"Then we had two turnovers, and we were only up by one," the coach explained. "They had the ball with seven seconds to go, they clanked it, we got the board."

That was the end of the game and the end of the regular season, the Lady Cougars hitting their peak at the right time, as they prepare for playoffs. Going in as the number 11 seed, Escalon was slated to travel to face off against number six Le Grand (21-8) on Tuesday night, after The Times went to press.

Back at .500 in league, Ball and French are satisfied with the way the girls made a run in the second half.

"It's been a great climb back," Ball said.