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Varsity Hoop Boys Split Pair Of Contests
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Falling on the road to open up their season, the varsity Cougar basketball boys came back with a win at home to split a pair of first-week contests.

At East Union on Tuesday, Dec. 7, the host team took a 59-44 win off the court. Coach Mike Backovich said he was pleased with an overall solid effort from his team, especially in light of the fact that they had very few practices together prior to the game.

"November 1 is the normal time to start basketball practices," said Backovich.

With the Cougars still playing football, the basketball team did not get together as a whole unit for practices until Nov. 29.

"We had five or six practices, the football players were good in coming out that Monday (after their season finale on Nov. 26) and we had a few days of being able to work on things," Backovich said. "We will be doing different things this year based on the personnel, match up kids with what they can do."

East Union jumped out to a 16-6 lead on Escalon and led it 29-14 at the half, increasing the lead to 45-25 after three periods. The Cougars did outscore their opponents 19-14 over the final frame.

"Part of that fourth quarter push was getting adjusted," Backovich said of getting into the flow of the game. "The biggest thing is the transition of your legs, you can run cross country or play football or soccer in the fall but that does not mean you're in shape for basketball and it's not an easy transition, physically or mentally, coming off another sport."

Steve Gentry had 14 points on the night to lead the Cougars, Grant Goedhart put in nine.

"East Union is a very good team, always well coached," Backovich noted. "I was proud of our guys, they got within striking distance, within eight points in the fourth quarter, but they were spent."

Thursday at home against Manteca, the Cougars took a 48-36 win to even their early season mark at 1-1.

"They're a little banged up right now and they've played eight games already, they are very seasoned," said Backovich. "I thought we had a good effort and showed flashes in the second and fourth quarters of how to run that offense."

Gentry poured in 22 points on the night in the win, Marcus Savage was also in double figures with 11 points.

Escalon took an 11-9 lead after one, Manteca rallied to take a 25-23 lead at the half. The Cougars turned it up a notch both offensively and defensively for the second half, outscoring Manteca 13-7 in the third quarter and 12-4 in the fourth for the final margin of victory.

"It was a very nice win for us against a pretty good team," the coach noted. "I'm real pleased with how we're progressing."

Backovich said the team is still looking for its identity, however, getting the players to gel.

"Each team has its own trademark and we're still looking for it but we'll find it," he said. "The biggest thing we're trying to do is emphasize the team play."

The coach added that with seven returning players, the Cougars have a good base to start from and will build from there. Marc Backovich, Grant Goedhart, Brian Beeman, Steve Gentry, Marcus Savage, George Judd and Anthony Suniga all are back for another season at the varsity level.

"We have a very veteran team, I'm real happy with that," said Backovich.

The Cougars have dropped out of the Linden Tournament, originally on their schedule for Dec. 16 through 18, due to a conflict with final exams, and instead will play at the Orestimba Tournament Dec. 20 through 22.