In what coach Nate Bartelink knew would be a tough week, Escalon’s varsity basketball boys split their games with rivals from nearby Ripon.
They got a win on the home court Wednesday night, Jan. 15 against the visiting Ripon Christian Knights, but took a tough loss on Friday at Ripon.
“Going in (Wednesday) I thought they (Ripon Christian) were the best team in league so this was really a signature win for us,” Bartelink explained of the 45-42 victory. “It was a defensive battle, our guys did a great job, Ty Harris, Colton Panero and Brenden Holmes really did a good job holding their top guys to under their season averages and the entire team did well defensively.”
The 42 points for the Knights was a season low and Escalon got off to a fast start, leading 11-2 after the first quarter. Ripon Christian turned the tables in the second, outscoring the host Cougars 14-6, so Escalon had just a 17-16 lead at the half. A couple of points better in the third, the Cougars tied the visitors in the fourth to take the three-point win.
“We did a good job rebounding and it was back and forth in the fourth quarter, basically a possession game,” explained Bartelink. “Dylan Ruiz hit a couple of big 3’s for us in the fourth.”
Ruiz had 16 points on the night, including four 3-pointers. Leading the way was Brenden Holmes, contributing 17 points, nine rebounds and seven steals. Also making a difference was Russell Weinbrecht, eight points and eight rebounds, including sinking six free throws in the second half.
On the road for the Jan. 17 game against the Ripon Indians, the final was 75-69 in favor of the host team.
“This was a much different game, there was not a lot of defense, we had a harder time against them,” Bartelink said.
The Indians had 20 second chance points for the game, making the most of their rebounding ability.
Escalon had a 19-18 lead after one quarter, but were down 34-30 at the half. The lead was 56-48 for Ripon after three.
“We competed, we battled, I loved the effort,” Bartelink noted. “We got the deficit down to three a couple of times in the fourth but we just couldn’t get the critical stop when we needed it.”
Weinbrecht had a career night, pouring in 33 points, among them hitting seven 3’s and going 8-for-9 at the free throw line. Holmes had 26 points so between the two, they scored 59 of Escalon’s 69 points.
“We didn’t have a lot of balance,” admitted Bartelink.
And though neither team played outstanding defensively, the coach pointed to the work of Harris and Panero as again leading the effort for the Cougars.
“Clayton Ferreira gave us some good minutes and the guys kept pushing,” Bartelink said. “I’m just extremely proud of the effort.”
With the split of games, the varsity Cougars improved to 1-2 in Trans-Valley League play. All three TVL contests, against Riverbank, Ripon Christian and Ripon, have been close. The team was scheduled to host on Tuesday, Jan. 21 after The Times went to press, will be at Hughson on Thursday and then welcome Hilmar to town for a Friday night, Jan. 24 contest with a 7:30 p.m. tip off time.