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!