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Varsity Girls Topple Le Grand In First Round
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Defying the odds, Escalon's varsity Lady Cougars defeated a higher seeded team on the road in the opening round of the basketball playoffs. They fell in the quarterfinals, however, ending their season at Christian Brothers Academy in Sacramento.

The girls went to Le Grand for the first round game on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

"We were better than that team," head coach Gary Ball said simply. "It's tough going on the road and they (Le Grand) had won a lot of games but their league is weaker."

Le Grand plays in the Southern League while Escalon is in the traditionally tough Trans-Valley League.

"We jumped out on them early," Ball added.

Escalon took a 10-4 lead in the first quarter and kept a slim 14-9 lead at the half in the defensive battle.

"They made a little run at the end but we held them off," Ball said.

The Lady Cougars were 34-25 victors in the first round game.

"We fought through full court pressure all the time, Kacey Ball and Kat Tavares did a great job at the guard positions," Ball said.

Though frustrated by the defense, Ball said the players performed well under the pressure, Ball getting six points and Tavares five. Leading scorer in the playoff win was Jennifer Costa, notching 11 points.

"Jen Costa and Shannon Krein will both be back and we'll be a little more versatile at the post with them, I'm looking forward to having that pair of posts," Ball said, looking ahead.

The win propelled the varsity girls into the second round, sending them on the road to Sacramento to take on Christian Brothers Academy.

"It was real exciting for the kids, it has been a long time, at least six years, since we made it to the second round," Ball said.

On the road for the game on Thursday night, the host Christian Brothers team won the defensive battle, 35-23, to end the season for the Lady Cougars.

"In our last eight games, when we went 6-2, we allowed an average of 32 points per game," Ball said, noting that the defense again was solid in the finale. "I think our nerves got to us, we couldn't relax on offense."

Christian Brothers had a 10-8 lead after one and extended it to 17-11 at the half. Ball said he felt if his team could still be in it after three quarters, they would have a chance at the upset. Down 26-19 after three, the girls were still in it but couldn't get enough shots to fall to overcome the deficit.

"Defense wasn't the problem," Ball said. "The key to our defensive effort was Lauren Brown with our odd front defense."

The team also played most of the postseason without senior leader Sandi French, who injured a knee late in the regular season.

"It was heart-breaking," Ball said, noting that French desperately wanted to be on the court with her teammates. "I put her in the last couple of minutes against Christian Brothers."

Costa was the leading scorer in the finale as well, putting in seven points. Brown chipped in with six and Kelly Colin, stepping in for French, had a solid effort with a two-point basket and a three-pointer.

"They were big inside, got some blocks," Ball said of the final opponent.

The varsity girls finished at .500 in league play with a 7-7 mark and went 16-10 overall with a solid second half of play.

"It was a wonderful season the way it ended, our kids just played hard and it was a lot of fun," Ball explained. "These kids righted the ship and it was an as enjoyable second half as I've ever had."

Finishing strong also earned individual team members some kudos, with Kacey Ball and Kat Tavares selected as All-TVL players and Lauren Brown receiving an Honorable Mention.