I knew that when I stepped foot into the infamous Domingo Sepulveda Gymnasium, in the heart of Panther Nation, that I would be in for a night of extreme basketball pandemonium. One foot into the gym I felt that familiar anxiousness that anyone involved in such an intense game feels. Fans were crowded at the concession stand, the speakers were blaring, fans were cheering and the ball players were focused in on getting warmed up for the big duel between two powerhouse ball clubs in 32-5A, Weslaco Panthers vs. Brownsville Hanna Eagles.
In the last meeting on Jan. 2, Weslaco suffered a terrible loss 73-40 to the Eagles. The buzz around the RGV was that Weslaco had received a reality check and wouldn’t be able to beat Hanna again in the rematch. Six games later, Hanna was still perfect in district 7-0 and Weslaco had dropped two losses to be 5-2.
Quarter I: It was tipoff and Weslaco was determined to redeem itself after a dissappointing loss in Brownsville. If this wasn’t a sign that this game was huge, officials had to wait until the third attempt at a jumpball to get the game started. Senior, Anthony Garza gave Hanna control to start the game, but no success. Weslaco was quick to regain possession and went on a 5-0 run in the first two minutes of the game. Garrison Lackey, grandson to legendary University of Texas quarterback Bobby Lackey, was first to strike against the Eagles with a shot from downtown to spark the Panther’s offense, but all-star Anthony Garza, football and basketball standout, executed a three-point play and put Hanna on the board. Once again, Mr. Hussle, JT Lopez, Weslaco guard, had a sweet block on Garza that put to rest the rumor that Weslaco could not hold its own against Hanna. But as Hanna has done for countless years, experience came through. Point guard, Mario Castaneda, put in a quick two and forward, Albert Lekach once again showed why he is such a great free throw shooter. As Hanna inched closer, Weslaco found a way to respond. Panther point guard Andrew Rangel showed tremendous leadership as he played will full confidence finding his way to hole. Nicknamed Ginobili, Rangel showed off his ball-handling skills to the entire crowd who ‘wow-ed’ over his ability to drive, block, rebound, pass and assist. After putting up a dog-fight, 1st quarter score would give Panthers the edge at 22-15.
JT Lopez, Jr. Guard
Photo courtesy: Joshua Jurado/Weslacosports.net
Quarter III: Intense. Nail-biter. Edge of seat. These words describe the third quarter. Hanna’s Albert Lekach was having a great game with five quick points to start off the half, then two minutes into the quarter, he would be charged with his fourth foul. Another minute later, Weslaco’s Powerhouse Garcia would also hit the pine for a rest with his fourth foul. This didn’t come before he lit it up with two consecutive treys to give Weslaco a 56-43 lead. Panther defensive dynamo JT Lopez was creating turnovers left and right, using his hands to block passing lanes, rebounding and assisting. The Battle of the point guards began with Castaneda and Rangel both weaving into the paint and finishing with flashy layups. Hanna’s top guard, Anthony Garza had been unusually quiet until a pair of free throws sparked his shooting drive and he would be fierce in the fourth. Final: 65-61
Quarter IV: Foul trouble plagued both teams in the fourth. After a miscommunication call on Weslaco, Eagles’ Garza hit four free throws to spark an amazing run for Hanna which brought them within five points of the Panthers with four minutes left in the game. Garza was rebounding, passing, shooting and doing everything possible to get a win for his mighty Eagles. Hanna’s defense finally showed up in the fourth, but by that time it was too late. Bodies were being thrown for every loose ball, shots were flying in the air, arms flailing everywhere for rebounds. These boys were laying everything on the court. Once again, Lopez got to the free throw line and converted 3 of 4 shots. Mr. Hussle was at it again. To seal the deal was Garrison Lackey for Weslaco, hitting key free throws to give his Fierce Panthers the win, 76-71 over Brownsville Hanna.
Anthony Garza, Sr. Forward, Hanna Eagles
Congratulations to Coach Gabe Valdez for an amazing win!
You would’ve thought it was a playoff game, where it’s win or go home. It was a match up between unbeaten teams, Edinburg Bobcats and the Harlingen Cardinals, both 6-0. This was the last game of the first half of district play. With both teams having playoff experience and rosters with All-district players, it was any teams game tonight. The rivalry between these two ball clubs has become a much anticipated meetings over the past several years. Last year Edinburg was undefeated in district31-5A until their last and final game of district play when the Cardinals upset the Bobcats 73-68. Last year Edinburg won its fourth straight district title and is hoping to continue the tradition again this year. The Cardinals, with much enthusiasm, took the floor ready to take that crown away and pull another victory out of their magic hat.
The first half went rather quickly with the basketball going from one side of the court to the other. Both teams showed great defense and shots were flying. Final for the first quarter was 21-17 in favor of the Bobcats. Mack Sanchez started the second quarter with a 3-ptr. and a shot block and used this to spark a small lead for the Cardinals, 24-23. Edinburg returned fire with several key shots quickly overturning the score to lead 32-26 with 3:32 left in the first half. The Cardinal Crush defense was sounding symphonic as all you could hear were the squeaks of sneakers all over the court. This sweet sound didn’t phase the Bobcats as they continued to put up points with a successful ‘and 1’ play and a quick two by #3 Stevan Guerrero. Harlingen’s M. Sanchez fired back with another long range three, making the halftime score 36-33, with Edinburg leading.
Mack Sanchez, Sr. Guard
photo courtesy of rgvsports.com
Harlingen began the 3rd quarter strong with Alejandro Pallares going straight to the hole and converting on two free throws. Pallares was showing his vertical height hitting several 10 foot jumpers while driving and playing strong under the basket. Cardinal point guard, Jonathan Sanchez also showed off a little of his ball handling skills. Right or left, he was taking his defender one-on-one to the bucket. Both teams were playing an excellent transition game, while at the same time being smart to set up and execute plays. Both teams were scoring as key players (Edinburg: Steven Guerrero, Aaron Olvera & Harlingen: Mack Sanchez, Alejandro Pallares) were finding their niche and scoring at will. With various lead changes throughout this quarter, Pallares and M. Sanchez were able to sink two each and put the Cardinals on top with a one point lead, 51-50, going into the final quarter. The Cardinals had all the momentum going into the fourth, but as any coach can tell you, the game can change in a blink of an eye. That is exactly what happened to Harlingen. With a great backdoor look, a steal, and a quick layup to start the quarter, Edinburg had began what would end up being a 12-0 run to spark the Bobcats to an eventual win. With 5:18 left in the game, Jr. guard, Aaron Olvera, who many feel is one of the best basketball players in the valley, began showing why his leadership and skill is what will lead the Bobcats to a postseason. The Cardinal offense got cold and wasn’t able to convert. Edinburg outscored Harlingen 21-6 in the fourth quarter alone which sealed the deal for the Bobcats. Unfortunately Harlingen, after a hard-fought battle, let the reigns go in the fourth quarter to give the Bobcats a 71-57 win.
Aaron Olvera, Jr. Guard, Edinburg Bobcats
Photo Courtesy: 956sports.com
Harlingen and Edinburg will rematch again Feb. 16 in Cardinal Country. Good Luck to both teams as they represent a fierce 31-5A district.
I received a call Monday from John Landry, Pops to Coppin State True Frosh Jonathan Landry, and 2013 Frosh phenom Trayvon Landry of San Antonio Madison HS. It’s been a tough couple of months for the Landry’s two talented boys.
Let’s hope that the next month is kinder to the two alumni of the Texas D-1 Ambassadors and that they both achieve a full recovery. Two of San Antonio’s finest.
Where do your dreams begin? More importantly, where do they end? Don’t just be a playground baller. Get an education too! The Texas D-1 Ambassadors have a track record which is unparallelled with college alumni. If you desire to play for your school team, improve your skills, play with the best and ultimately to get recruited and fulfill that college dream then do not miss the Texas D-1 Ambassadors tryouts this coming Sunday, January 31st from 5-7 PM at Akins High School.
Below: Chip Ivany, the original Texas D-1 Ambassador. Told by his “expert” father (me) as a 5’2″ high school freshman to give up the sport and to play baseball. He disregarded, because he had a dream. 1500 high school points later, an NCAA Tournament ring from South Alabama, a good possibility of going back to the NCAA tourny again this year with UT-San Antonio and with his COLLEGE DEGREE IN PLAIN VIEW. I stand corrected.
Please reply to TexasBasketball@aol.com with name and grade if you plan to attend. Thank you…..Coach Max
Austin St. Michael’s has an impressive record built outside the private school ranks in tourny play v. the 4A & 5A publics. They’ll face a challenge today from a big Antonian team led by 2011 W 6’7″ Jonathan Holmes, shown below. Holmes is easily a mid major, who with the right exposure could play himself up to the Power Conferences. He has the pedigree as his Pops played football for Nebraska back in the day. 2011 P 6’9″ Darrious Hamilton (below) has transferred from 5A San Antonio Reagan and has also landed at Antonian. He is not in uniform. I did speak to his mom & dad today and they’re excited to be in their new environment. Hamilton will have to sit out until next year as per TAAPS transfer rules.
Below with the Texas D-1 Ambassadors )Westlake’s Cody Doolin (San Francisco) continues to show why former Kansas Jayhawk and NBA Guard Rex Walters is ready to give him the keys to the offense next year for the Dons. Doolin dropped 30 points, was near perfect from the FT line and everytime Pflugerville made a run he answered back with tremendous emotion. Doolin knows when to get his team mates involved and he also has a feel for when his team needs HIM to take control. That’s leadership folks. Pflugerville’s 2011 G Deon Mitchell showed why he’s on the radar of many high major programs as he scored 21 (most of them in the 4th quarter) to almost singlehandedly will the Panthers back to the verge of victory.
With most of my time spent running around the State of Texas and beyond, getting the pulse of the Division One prospects playing at the varsity level, it’s a rare time when I’m able to take in a Junior Varsity game. Tonight’s undercard to the varsity game features Austin’s future at the point guard spot. Westlake’s Will Morse and Pflugerville’s T.J. Williams two kids who personify leadership.
photo courtesy rgvsports.com
Dual-sports athlete, Mack Sanchez Jr., who recently graced the cover of the Rgvsports.com Magazine, currently leads the Red Bird swarm. As successful as he was as quarterback, his skills extend equally on the court. Playing shooting guard, Sanchez recently dropped a season high-30 points against cross-town rival, Harlingen South Hawks. Sanchez is really started to come into his role as one of the senior leaders on the team. Sanchez is finishing with double digits in every game and his 3-pt. average is increasing weekly. He had four shots from downtown against the Hawks and played amazing defense creating numerous turnovers. Sanchez is stepping up and creating hussle plays.
Seniors: Jonathan Sanchez #22 Point Guard & Ben Jara #30 Center
Adding to the Cardinals success are seniors, Jonathan Sanchez PG, and Ben Jara C, who have been a part of the Texas Ambassadors RGV Team. Sanchez has done an extremely excellent job handling the ball and being an excellent leader. I’ve seen Sanchez grow up from elementary to middle school to high school and I can truly say this young man embodies the example that hard work pays off. Sanchez is a true lefty and can easily take his opponent to the hole. Once he begins his drive, it is very hard to stop him. Added to that deadly left side is his range as he can sink his share of 3-pointers. Sanchez has matured greatly in his skill level and is sure to deliver when his team needs him. Jara, is another player that I have been able to see develop throughout the years. Balancing his 6’2″ frame has been Jara’s objective the past several seasons. I’ve seen him play some hard nose defense and sink some great shots down low. Jara is a great team player and is always willing to give it all for his team.
Additional key senior players for the Cardinals are Jesse Pedraza G and Alejandro Pallares F. (shown respectively in picture to left) Pedraza and Pallares both had breakout games Tuesday 19th vs. Edinburg North HS as they helped lead their squad to a 61-53 win. Pedraza made some amazing hussle plays that allowed the Cardinals to create some big plays. Jesse’s fierce defense had him running all over the top of the key as the Cards run a dangerous trap defense. In the 3rd qtr, he had a great put back. Alongside Pedraza is Alejandro Pallares who had an amazing game mainly at the charity stripe. 8 of his 14 points came from free throws as he was 8-11 from the line. Pallares was reaking havoc under the basket as he continued to push his way to the hole. His strength continues to improve and his footwork is looking more defined. Pallares continually pounded the paint getting layups, baseline drives and defensive rebounds.
The Cardinals are starting to gel as a team with numerous plays involving Mack Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez and Alejandro Pallares. These guys turn a basic three-man weave drill into a brilliant play that ends with a quick and ferocious layup to the bucket and fans cheering so loud, you would think the roof would cave in.
The Cardinals will need all the big plays they can get as they face the Edinburg Bobcats this Friday in Game 7 of district play as both ball clubs are 6-0. Edinburg will host the Cardinals in a game that could decide the district champion. Edinburg has experience playing in big games and returns six seniors from last year. The Cardinals also have their share of big game experience and have a seasoned team of veterans leading the squad. Friday will be big as both teams look good.
Congratulations to Coach Greg Yates and all of the Harlingen Cardinals for a great start to the 2010 Season. Good Luck!
I’m on the 2nd leg of my trip, having left Jackson, MS and last night I attended a game across the State lines into Memphis, TN between last years State Finalist, Raleigh Egypt and Bartlett. It was great to see my old friend from Five Star Camp days, Coach Brian Brooks who moved from Moss Point, MS to Memphis two years ago. That’s the reason why I came to Memphis, to see his kids and give them some publicity. It was worth the trip.
It was not a particularly well played game as neither team had above average ball handlers so turnovers and missed free throws were in abundance. Having said that, it amazes me the depth of talent in the River City. As far as stat lines I was impressed with the following kids:
Below: 2010 unsigned senior, Alan Morris a 6’7″ shot blocker supreme. Heading into the game he had recorded 170 blocks in 18 games! Wow. Last night he had 8 rebounds, 8 blocks and altered a half dozen more. A likely JuCo guy, he is the best shot blocker I’ve seen at his size. He also displayed a nice baby hook and a great motor. 2010 unsigned P Ronald “Tank” Brown is an academic qualifier. Although at times he didn’t seem to be going full speed and to be totally focused mentally Brown does show a nice package. He’s a wide body, can handle it a little and has a nice shot out to 12-15 feet. He finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds. He was plagued with foul trouble throughout.