There's not a player in the Trans-Valley League who matches up one-on-one with Ripon Christian's 6-foot-8 Tyler Goslinga, but what about four of them?
That was Escalon's idea: Throw fresh bodies at the husky center and force him to hustle on both ends of the court.
"We have a deep bench and our guys can step out and hit the 15-footer," Escalon coach Martin Louro said. "We wanted him working hard on both ends."
That strategy paid off for Escalon, as the Cougars' up-tempo attack allowed them to overcome their size disadvantage for a 69-56 win over the Knights.
The victory leaves Escalon (12-7) and RC (14-3) tied for second in the Trans-Valley League at 1-1, and it snapped the Knights' win streak at eight games.
It also exposed RC's weaknesses.
While the Knights feature one of the Stanislaus District's top inside players, they are vulnerable everywhere else:
Nine Cougars played in the first quarter alone, but RC used just one substitute until the game was out of reach.
Escalon's guards pressured their counterparts from the inbounds pass until the shot, while the slower Knights couldn't stay with Gino Franceschetti (12 points, three treys), Brandon Shaw (13 points) and Nick Araujo (11 points).
RC shot 23 free throws, but made just 10.
Escalon nailed nine 3-pointers, while RC hit on just 2 of 12.
Escalon's ability to exploit RC's problem areas wasn't just a matter of scouting, Louro said, but lots of hard work.
"We had open gym two nights a week and played two nights a week, then we played tournaments on the weekends," said Louro, who estimated his Cougars player 56 games last summer. "Seven of these 12 kids were committed to the program and they rarely missed a day."
The exhausting schedule has paid dividends for 6-4 junior Tyler Schuurman and 6-4 Vince Aufdermaur. They took turns banging Goslinga when RC had the ball, and forcing the big man to run around the court while on defense — each player connected on a 3-pointer.
"My guys can come to the free-throw line and hit the jumper, so (Goslinga) had to come out defend," Louro said. "It kept him on the move and it cleared out the middle for us. A few times, our big guy slipped in for a back-door layup."
When they weren't hitting layups, the Cougars were firing from the outside.
Three consecutive treys in the second quarter turned a 22-17 Escalon lead into a 31-17 margin, and RC never again got closer than four. When it looked as if RC might rally late in the third, Schuurman was there to keep Escalon on top.
With Goslinga on his hip in the middle, Schuurman (12 points) went beyond the 3-point arc and found himself open — and hit a trey for a 51-40 lead.
Goslinga managed to score 26, but he had just two defensive rebounds as he was forced to move from the basket to guard Escalon's athletic forwards.
With the interior vacated, the shorter Cougars created plenty of backdoor opportunities to maintain their lead.
"We like to run, but we can be patient when things slow down," Franceschetti said. "We kept passing, moving the ball from side to side, and eventually someone would break into the middle.