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Varsity Hoop Boys Close Out Tournament With Victory
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Escalon’s Brenden Holmes, 4, is surrounded by the Ceres defenders as he looks to dish the ball off in opening round action of the Oakdale Rotary Classic Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 26. Jeremy Center/The Times

Thirteen games into the campaign, the Escalon varsity boys basketball team has compiled a record of 7-6.

That includes a 1-2 showing at the recent Oakdale Rotary Classic Tournament, hosted between Christmas and New Year.

The squad traveled to Oakdale for the three-day tourney, running from Thursday, Dec. 26 through Saturday, Dec. 28.

“We started out poorly and lost to Ceres,” said head coach Nate Bartelink. “We came out flat and had lots of turnovers, a lot of careless mistakes.”

Both teams were slow out of the gate, tying 7-7 in the first quarter. Ceres, however, righted the ship and outscored Escalon 22-13 in the second to lead it 29-20 at the half. They were a few points better in the third and the teams tied again in the fourth quarter, 20-20, with Ceres getting the 68-56 win.

“They had some strength inside and one of their players hit six 3’s,” explained Bartelink.

Brenden Holmes scored 20 points and had six steals in the loss. Russell Weinbrecht had 19 points, including going 9-for-9 from the free throw line, and Colton Panero added six points and seven rebounds.

Friday, the boys were back on the court to take on Pitman, a Division I school.

“We had our hands full and we just had another poor start,” Bartelink said of falling behind 12-4 in the opening frame. Pitman went on a 21-6 run in the second, taking a commanding 33-10 lead at the half.

“We just didn’t have the appropriate amount of effort to get the win,” the coach said.

They did come out of the locker room with a better overall effort in the second half, outscoring Pitman 20-19 in the third, 15-6 in the fourth but the final was 58-45 in favor of the DI school. Bartelink said the Cougars went to a man-to-man defense for the second half and that helped keep Pitman in check, while the Escalon squad also played for their pride after falling behind by 23 points.

“We need the effort for all four quarters,” Bartelink said of looking for some consistency.

Holmes paced the team with 24 points while Weinbrecht had 10 points and seven rebounds.

On Saturday, Dec. 28 Escalon matched up with Trans-Valley League opponent Hughson and this one was an easy win for the Cougars. They upended the Huskies, 63-26, putting their opponent away early.

“Our guys were motivated and they came out with fire,” Bartelink said of his team being determined to get a tournament win. “I expected a better, more competitive game but we could do no wrong and everyone was producing.”

A 22-3 run in the first quarter for the Cougars set the tone for the game and they outscored Hughson 27-4 in the second to take an overwhelming 49-7 lead into the locker room.

It is the largest halftime differential Bartelink said one of his teams has ever had. It also led to a running clock for the second half and gave the coach an opportunity to empty his bench.

“I was really proud of how they responded,” he said of his team putting together the standout effort on Saturday.

Hughson won the third quarter, 12-9 and the fourth, 7-5, but the game was well in hand, a 63-26 victory for Escalon.

“Ty Harris had played well against Pitman, solid defense and he brought a lot of energy,” pointed out Bartelink. “He was in the starting line-up against Hughson and he just goes out and competes.”

Dylan Ruiz had eight points against Hughson, Alex Mendoza had six points, Ty Bashaw with four and Daniel Gonzalez sank a shot from beyond the arc for a 3-poiner that had his teammates celebrating as many players contributed.

“Russell had 26 points, five rebounds and four steals, he had his best shooting night of the season and was six-for-nine on 3’s,” Bartelink said, adding that Weinbrecht sat for most of the second half.

Also of note, a first-half dunk for Holmes, something he has worked on in practice.

Bartelink said Clayton Ferreira got the ball and was able to throw it ahead of Holmes, timing it just right for the thrilling dunk.

“It was a nice moment and I was happy for him,” Bartelink said.

Holmes had 12 points in the game.

“It was a good way to end the tournament and hopefully we can build on that,” Bartelink added.

The squad will host Argonaut on Thursday, Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. and travel to Summerville for a Friday night contest, Jan. 3 with a 7:30 p.m. tip off time.

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Members of the Escalon varsity boys basketball team gather in the huddle before heading out onto the court for the second half of a Saturday, Dec. 28 game against Hughson as part of the Oakdale Rotary Classic holiday tournament. Marg Jackson/The Times