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Slow Start Bedevils Varsity Boys
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An exceptionally poor start ruined Riverbank chances against archrival Escalon as the Bruins lost the Tuesday, Jan. 11, varsity boys basketball game, 54-44.

Down 14-5 by the end of the first quarter in the Cougar gym, Riverbank lost the second quarter by 11-7 also. They caught up, at 19-9, in the third period but yielded the final quarter, 13-20.

"We got off to a very slow start. It was uncharacteristic of us," said Bruin coach Jeff Jennings. "Our third quarter was much better. We played good defense. We came within three points of catching up but couldn't get over the hump."

Then the Bruins were forced to foul in the fourth quarter to stop the clock. The Cougars were shooting free throws.

Kevin Cole did an exceptional job for Riverbank, leading the Bruins in total points with 13 and sinking three of their seven outside shots.

Eric Rodriguez and Jon Blount each scored eight points; Drew Villalobos, six; Nate Gonzales, four; Ray Baca, three; and Juan Lopez, two.

"We made a comeback but it was not enough," said Jennings. "You have to play 32 minutes of great basketball against a team as good as Escalon."

Riverbank only came to the foul line three times and sank one of their attempts. Escalon scored on 16 tries out of 26 at the free throw line.

Friday's game against Hilmar was more routine. Riverbank defeated an obviously weaker opponent by 56-25, going ahead, 19-9, in the opening quarter and winning subsequent quarters, 13-8, 17-2 and 7-6.

"It was our best defensive effort to date. We were spectacular," said Jennings. "Defense is the key to our success. We learned that from our first two league games."

Cole again was the top Bruin shooter, totalling 15 points including three 3-pointers.

But Jennings said he was most impressed with Cole's rebounding, noting that he put together a complete game, both in offense and defense.

Among other scorers, Rodriguez and Villalobos each hit 12 points; Blount, five; Lopez and Baca, three each; and Justin Montano, Craig Zavala and Gonzales, two each.

Fouls were more equally distributed in this game. Riverbank came to the free throw line and hit four out of five throws. Hilmar scored three out of eight attempts at the foul line.

Riverbank is now 7-8 overall and 1-2 in league. The Bruins play three times this week, at home to Hughson on Tuesday, away to Livingston on Friday and at home to Patterson on Saturday.

Saturday's games in the Riverbank gym will mix both boys and girls games starting at 1:30 p.m. with freshmen boys. The varsity boys are slated to play last at 7:30 p.m.