Road victories are tough to come by in the Trans-Valley League and Hilmar boys basketball coach Paul Willis continues to stress the significance of winning away games.
The Yellowjackets, who were riding a win streak heading into Tuesday's only game of the week, managed to extend the streak to three straight after topping Escalon in a 53-49 thriller.
“Anytime you can come to Escalon on the road it's a nice win,” said Willis. “It’s just a hard place to play, they play great defense as well. It’s a tough place to come in and play, especially on Tuesday night.”
Tuesday's game was also the first of four consecutive road games for Hilmar, who next have the first place and preseason favorites to win the TVL—Ripon High.
“Next we are at Ripon on Tuesday which is another tough place to play,” said Willis.
Hilmar's TVL record improves to 4-1 and 12-7 overall heading into the first place game with Ripon which has a 4-0 record.
This was the 'Jackets second lowest scoring total for a victory this season. Their lowest of the year was 50, after defeating Gustine back on Dec. 3, 2016.
It was also the 'Jackets first overtime game of the year and they managed to overcome a night where the majority of their shots did not fall into the basket.
The defense on the other hand, was consistent throughout the game, challenging Escalon’s every possession.
Hilmar didn't waste any time, coming out with a 13-4 run in the first quarter, before Escalon turned the tables and went on a 14-3 run in the second.
Hilmar found themselves down 18-16 at halftime before changes were made.
“We made some adjustments and we came out on a little run and then it was back and forth, nothing spectacular,” said Willis of their third quarter run.
It wasn't flashy but it was effective, something that the 'Jackets have relied on during their latest hot streak.
Hilmar's 17-9 run in the third gave them a nice cushion and with five minutes remaining, Hilmar took their biggest lead of the game, up by nine points.
With one minute left in the fourth and up by seven, the game looked over, but Escalon continued to grind and find a way to inch closer. Escalon's three-point shot with less than 58 seconds cut the lead to four, however Hilmar was fouled and made one free-throw.
Down by five with 18 seconds, Escalon managed to get a three point play off a foul.
They made the first two then missed their third on purpose to allow an offensive rebound and they managed to get it and gave Tommy Pangan the three point shot, but again, he was fouled. Pangan made all three free-throws and tied the game at 45 apiece to send it into overtime.
Hilmar dominated in overtime, as they went on an 8-4 run anchored by Kole Gaglio's six points.
“All you can do is hope to compete every night, our league is so tough, any team can beat anyone,” said Willis. “And nights when you shoot well it’s easier and nights when you don’t shoot too well, like tonight, we relied on defense and the basics, but we have a long ways to go.”
Gaglio and Carter Azevedo led all 'Jackets with 17 points each while Jonas Tate added 10. Altogether, these three had 44 of the 53 points scored.
Hilmar has won five of the last six games, including three straight.
“I have to give our guys credit, they won in an intense environment, the fans went crazy but hopefully we learned from it,” said Willis. “We are doing good things. We are taking care of the middle, blocking shots. Tonight we won because we played like a team.”
Hilmar will travel on the road to take on Ripon at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.