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Homecoming Spoilers - Riverbank Hoopsters Prevail At Escalon
Riverbank High's varsity boys basketball team is on the cusp of a second straight 20-win season and high seed into the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs.

The success has rallied behind undeniable chemistry between Bruin players and coaches, but did little to prevent a dramatic controversy between head coach Jeff Jennings and standout junior guard Rolaun Dunham during Friday's 69-56 victory over Escalon on Cougar Homecoming. The disagreement stemmed over an electrifying series of plays by Dunham. The six foot, one inch talent broke to the rim for a bucket and an 11-point Riverbank lead with 3 minutes, 20 seconds to play, then bolted down court to intercept a lob pass near the hoop on Escalon's ensuing possession.

It happened within a matter of seconds, and seemed highly implausible - considering Dunham had to score and beat the ball back across the hardwood as it was lobbed down court. To further muddle the events, Dunham and Jennings clashed when explaining how the play happened.

"You don't teach that," Jennings said afterwards. "That's just something from inside you that says I am going to play until I drop."

Dunham disagreed.

"That's just something coach Jennings stresses a lot," Dunham said. "Until that final buzzer, you have to hustle back there and try to stop them."

When approached about the differing opinions, Jennings begrudgingly conceded, but just a little.

"I think if he played for anybody we would hustle like that," Jennings said. "Let's just say if he didn't hustle, he would hear about it from me."

If Riverbank's biggest problems are giving credit to spectacular plays, the team is in pretty good shape as the Trans Valley League season rounds the bend to the final stretch of conference meetings.

Riverbank fell to state power, Modesto Christian, 94-68 on Jan. 22, but is unbeaten against the rest of the league and sits at 18-2 overall, 6-1 in the TVL. If the Bruins repeat wins over Orestimba, Hilmar, Ripon and Hughson to close the regular season, they are all-but guaranteed a top-4 seed into the SJS playoffs and two home games to open the postseason. It's been a team goal since the 2011-12 season ended in the NorCal Championship Tournament.

"At this point all we are striving for is two home playoff games," Jennings admitted. "You just don't know where you can end up, but you want to put yourself in the best situation possible."

Jennings said he doesn't care where Riverbank lands within the top-four, but the Bruins are likely to slip into a favorable position opposite other top teams despite a power rating that could multiply upon a winning percentage that carries defeats to MC. Summerville (7-0 in the Mother Lode League) and Encina (7-0 in the Sierra Delta League) were listed above Riverbank in Monday's release of the SJS power ratings, but could potentially meet in a semifinal opposite the Bruins since Encina struggled to a 7-7 preseason and Summerville was bested by Riverbank 68-65 on Nov. 30. Of the three, Riverbank is the only team listed on the Division IV state rankings (honorable mention). A possible semifinal opponent for Riverbank could be Liberty Ranch. The Tigers sit 6-1 in the competitive Sierra Valley League and carry a win over unbeaten Western Athletic Conference leader, Patterson (19-4 overall).

It's an interesting matchup, but a considerable distance away. Riverbank still has to care of business in conference play. They did on Jan. 25 during the win over Escalon. The Bruins trailed 34-32 at the half, but rallied to take the lead amidst a 17-8 third-quarter rally and outscored Escalon 10-14 in the final period. Dunham was scoreless in the opening quarter, but scrambled to drain three treys and ended with a game-high 25 points. Kenny Veliz chipped in 15 points while Tristin Rodgers (10), Reily Nabors 10), Trey Jones (four), Armando Manriquez (two) and Markus Benson (one) also scored. Riverbank hosted Orestimba (5-17, 0-7) Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The Bruins are at Hilmar (8-14, 1-6) on Thursday, Jan. 31.