By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Varsity Lady Cougars Battle Way To Playoffs
Placeholder Image
Ripon Christian and Hilmar both got the better of Escalon's varsity girls this week, the basketball squad closing out the regular season at 6-8 in Trans-Valley League play.

They were scheduled to travel to Bret Harte for the opening round of the playoffs in Division IV on Tuesday night, Feb. 24, after The Times went to press.

At home for both regular season final games, the varsity girls lost a 61-48 decision to Ripon Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

"We were in the ball game, we're playing hard and better," noted coach Gary Ball. "We just had a bad third quarter."

Both teams came out fired up and shot well in the opening frame, Ripon Christian taking a 16-14 lead after one. They edged out to a 29-23 lead at the half, then put the game out of reach with a 21-13 third quarter run.

"We were close at the half but in the third quarter, they jumped out early on us and we were climbing a hill from there on out," admitted Ball.

Still, the girls outscored RC in the final frame and Ball said both he and assistant coach Steve French were pleased with what they saw on the court.

"The way they're playing is finally what Steve and I were hoping they would do," Ball explained. "The kids are playing as hard as they've ever played and now it's directed. It's fun to watch them play."

Though both games this week were losses, Ball said the team fought harder and played both teams much closer this time around than in the first round of the league campaign.

Kacey Ball paced the girls with 18 points, Missy Cullum put in 10, including two 3-pointers. Ball had one 3-point basket.

"You can sense it, they're playing hard and in a specific direction, they're on the same page," said Ball.

Thursday, the girls hosted Hilmar and played the Yellowjackets tough, dropping a 49-40 decision.

"The game got established in the first quarter when it was 14-6, they jumped out on us," said Ball. "It was 26-18 at the half, then the game went kind of stagnant."

Neither team got much going in the third, with the first four minutes going by with no one notching a basket. Hilmar went on to win that frame by an 8-4 margin, then the Lady Cougars turned it on in the fourth, outscoring Hilmar by an 18-15 edge.

"The score is respectable because of our defense," explained Ball. "And we got some shots, we executed."

Alyssa Guzman was the leading scorer for Escalon with 10 points, including two 3's.

"Talk about lighting up a quarter," Ball said of Guzman. "She is a shooter for us, that is her role, and all of her points came in the fourth quarter."

Ball and Cullum each had nine, Lauren Brown chipped in seven points, including hitting the final shot of the game, a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"This game went in little tidbits," Ball added. "There were no spurts other than the first quarter. Otherwise, we scored, they scored, we got a couple, they got a couple."

The losses left the varsity girls with a 6-8 mark in league play but put them in the playoffs as the 15th seed. They are 9-16 overall and meet Bret Harte, 18-8 overall, in the opening round.

The regular season finale on Thursday night featured the presentation of flowers and crowns to the three senior girls on the team, Missy Cullum, Lyndsey Johnson and Stephanie Franklin, along with a special appearance by 'cheerleaders' Jonny Norton, Jesse Miguel and Curtis Schurkamp, who delighted the crowd with some quickly arranged routines and cheers.

"I'd like to thank those kids who came out and did the little cheerleading thing," said Ball. "On behalf of the team, thank you, it's special to the kids."

And no matter how short or long the playoff run for the Lady Cougars, Ball said he and French are satisfied with the fact they made it to postseason and are starting to come together.

"We only graduate three, we'll have nine coming back," he said. "It's rewarding for us, Steve and I, to be finally where we thought we could be and the kids deserve the playoffs."