Hilmar High hosted rival Escalon on Friday night in a game that will be remembered for some time. The last time these two schools faced each other was on a football field in Stockton for the Section championship. This time, the Yellowjackets (2-4 TVL) and Cougars (4-1 TVL) met each other on the basketball court in a back and forth matchup that was decided in the final seconds.
“They were pumped up, ready and focused to play. I haven’t seen these guys focused like that all season long,” Hilmar’s head coach Danny Freitas said. “We wanted that win bad.”
Escalon wanted the win just as bad, displaying a high degree of resolve and tenacity in its eventual 61-60 win against the Yellowjackets. There were a total of 19 lead changes during the game and every time one team would take the lead the other would answer immediately with a clutch basket. Neither team held a lead of more than four points, and both offenses were able to virtually score at will.
At the end of the first quarter Hilmar led 12-11. Eight minutes and four lead changes later it was Escalon who was on top, 26-24, going into the half. The Cougars opened the third quarter with a trey which was immediately answered by a Hilmar trey. The ‘Jackets hit another three-pointer from the top of the key a couple minutes later and once again retook the lead. With 23 seconds in the third Hilmar hit its fifth three point shot of the quarter to take a one point lead.
“It was going to come down to who was going to make the last shot,” Freitas said.
The fourth quarter was as dramatic as it could get. Escalon retook the lead thanks to a handful of free throws, two of which came off a technical foul called on Freitas. Soon after, Hilmar rallied to take another one point lead with two minutes on the clock. From there it was basket for basket as players ran up and down the court with a sense of urgency. The Cougars again took the lead with 25 seconds left to play, setting up a do or die shot from Hilmar. With less than five seconds on the clock Hilmar passed the ball to Jonathan O’Brein who took a shot from half court in a desperate attempt to win the game. The ball hit the rim, missing the net by a couple inches, handing Hilmar a heartbreaking loss.
“It was tough,” Freitas said. “But we’re still in contention for the playoffs. We just have to beat Hughson and Orestimba, and if we do that we’ll be fine.”
Hilmar’s next game will be against Ripon High in Ripon on Friday.
To contact Frankie Tovar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.