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Bruins Lose Gonzales, First Two TVL Contests
The last thing Riverbank High boys basketball fans wanted to see on Friday was the lanky form of Bruin senior Zack Gonzales, supported by crutches during the team's highly anticipated showdown with visiting Escalon.

Gonzales, who suffered a devastating high ankle sprain when he landed awkwardly on the foot of a Modesto Christian opponent two days prior, was forced to sit out the contest and watch Riverbank (11-3) battle valiantly to a 67-60 loss inside the spacious Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium.

"I don't know anyone in the district who was playing better basketball than Zack," Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings said. "You hate to see an injury like that happen to a senior that has dedicated so much to a program."

Jennings said Gonzales could be out for two weeks of Riverbank's Trans-Valley League season, leaving the team's leading scorer and rebounder to return for the final seven conference contests, starting Jan. 25 against Hughson.

It's a tough break, considering Riverbank plays teams with a combined overall record of 36-24 across that span. And Riverbank badly needs league wins to snare a decent position on the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV power ratings.

"It's kind of tough, because you got the team playing one way in the rhythm of Zack being there," Jennings said. "Now you take him out of the equation and we are forced to ask guys to do some different things and find a new role on the team."

The rest of the Bruin lineup responded well to the challenge on Friday, and even trailed Escalon (11-4) by just four points in the fourth.

The narrow lead was as close as Riverbank would get after big shots from Gino Franceschetti (13 points, three 3's) and clutch converted free throws from the Cougars. Six Escalon players scored eight or more points, while Riverbank's Manual Jimenez (five 3's) landed a game-high 17 points.

Ivan Manriquez scored 17 while Rolaun Dunham added nine. Antony Navarrete and Alex Reynaga each scored six while Robert Martinez chipped in four.

Jimenez brought Riverbank a little closer in the final moments of the first half with a big trey, but watched Franceschetti drain a buzzer-beating three-pointer just seconds later for a 37-26 Cougar lead at the break.

"It was a good game, I just wish we could have won it," Jennings said. "Some guys just have to score a little more and rebound a little more.

"We still have some good young players with Zack out, they just need to grow up quick."

Reigning section champs, Modesto Christian, toppled the Bruins by a 70-37 score on Jan. 4 n the TVL opener for both schools. Riverbank was at Orestimba on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The Bruins host Hilmar on Friday, Jan. 14.