Taking the court for two games this past week, the Escalon varsity boys basketball team won both, improving to an overall 9-8 record for the season.
The JV boys had one game, winning that one, and they ended the year with an overall mark of six wins, eight losses but won the final four games on their schedule.
It was a varsity only contest on Monday, May 24 as Escalon welcomed Linden to town, winning 58-35.
“We used the two nights to honor our seniors, we started an all-senior line-up and Daniel Gonzalez had our first basket of the night on a three-pointer,” said head coach Nate Bartelink of the senior making the most of the start. “It was good to see him get some playing time and have productive minutes, he also had a three-pointer in the fourth quarter for six points on the night.”
Escalon had a 17-11 lead after one, 26-20 at the half against Linden. The Cougars had a strong second half, putting 32 points on the board to the 15 for the Lions.
“Ten of our 11 guys scored,” added Bartelink.
Brenden Holmes paced the team with 13 points, Jack Anderson put in nine on a trio of treys. Dillon Watson had seven and both Ty Harris and Matt Silva scored six.
Tuesday was the official Senior Night with recognition for the seven seniors prior to tipoff with Riverbank. Honored for their contributions to the team were Dillon Watson, Daniel Gonzalez, Brenden Holmes, Joe Wolaver, Ty Harris, Blake Matos and Ty Bashaw.
“Those seven seniors will be missed, they are very dependable and I will miss them a lot,” Bartelink said. “These are kids that were raised the right way, played the game hard, were good teammates, and last year getting to the playoffs, showed they can play at a high level.”
Holmes was also presented with a special ‘1000 point ball’ for the 1,269 points scored in his Escalon High varsity career.
Holmes spent three years at the varsity level, though this year was a shortened season due to the pandemic.
“It was unfortunate that not more people got to witness his senior season, as we had only limited crowds,” Bartelink said. “He has left a legacy; his impact will extend beyond his time with us and he lifted our program to a level that is respected in the area, along with his teammates, he did a lot to put our program back on the map.”
Bartelink said he felt fortunate to have coached Holmes and “had a front row seat” to his entire career at EHS. An all-league honoree, Trans-Valley League most outstanding player, Escalon’s team MVP and leading scorer for three seasons … there isn’t much that Holmes left undone.
“He was always the target, always had the opponent’s best defender on him,” said Bartelink. “But he increased his scoring every single year at the varsity level and he will be missed, it was an honor to coach him and watch him play.”
On the court Tuesday, May 25 against Riverbank, Escalon put the final win of the season on the books, taking down the visiting Bruins 62-50.
“They’re always a tough opponent but we were happy to get them on our schedule in a non-TVL year,” Bartelink said. “They always give us a good competitive game and a hard fought battle.”
Again, Escalon started an all-senior line up and shot well in the first quarter, outscoring the Bruins 22-7. Riverbank turned the tables a bit in the second, outscoring Escalon 21-13, with Escalon leading 35-28 at the half. The host Cougars had scoring edges of 14-13 in the third and 13-9 in the fourth to seal the 12-point win.
“It did get down to four points a couple of times but we had a couple of big three’s from Jack Anderson and Russell Weinbrecht to extend the lead,” said Bartelink.
Harris paced the team with 15 points in his final game on the hardwood as a Cougar, with Watson and Weinbrecht each scoring 13. Anderson had 12 points, while Holmes added six in the finale.
“Riverbank always presents a challenge and we had to work for this victory,” the coach said.
That left the team with a 9-8 record, getting over the .500 level for the campaign. Bartelink said the varsity season started off rocky, as playing in the Valley Oak League was a challenge.
“We got better as the season moved along and the kids were up to the task, not giving up early when the season wasn’t heading in the right direction,” he explained. “They played well at the end of the season and we can take that momentum into a brief summer program.”
Tuesday, it was a combination freshman/JV team that took the court against Riverbank, playing well in a 62-34 win, their fourth in a row.
Eleven players got on the scoreboard in the victory, paced by 12 points from Ayden Wilson. Also in double figures were Julian Borrego and Logan Anderson with 10 apiece; Donovan Rozevink and Zack Valencia each scored nine.
Escalon built up a 44-19 lead at the half on the way to the win.
“We’re losing some talent at the varsity level but if this group at the JV level can be as committed as the seniors that are leaving, I am confident we can work with those guys and eventually get them to the point they need to be,” explained Bartelink.
With seven seniors leaving, there will be plenty of opportunity for this year’s JV players to make their presence known at the varsity level next year.
And while playing basketball as spring is giving way to summer isn’t the norm, the coach said everyone did their part to make it work.
“I want to give all the players and coaches in the program credit for following the protocol this season, allowing them to play in all of the games on the schedule,” Bartelink said. “We had 320 COVID tests for the boys basketball program, with zero positive test results.”