LA FERIA – Faced with a chance to win the third-place championship at the C.E. Vail Tournament here Saturday, the Jags responded, launching out to a 16-point first half lead on Pioneer before surviving a late D-Back run to post a 51-41 victory.
Coach Carlos Ramos got terrific play from Josh Sauceda and Simon Pena in the final, as the former led the second half surge and the latter was unconscious early on. In between, teammates Miguel Gonzalez and Angel Salinas helped the club show that it has what it takes to contend for the 31-6A crown.
The Jags are off to a fine beginning at 10-3 behind seniors Sauceda and Gonzalez, each averaging better than 10 points a game. Sophomore Salinas leads at 16.8 and has canned 20 three-pointers thus far. The wild card in the early going has been 6-1 sophomore Saul Alaniz, who has hops and can block some shots; he has also exhibited fearlessness on the offensive end giving the Jags some more punch in the attack. And when Pina shoots as he did against Pioneer, making three treys and ending with 14 points, the youthful team is dangerous indeed.
At the C.E. Vail the Jags won twice Thursday, a blowout of San Perlita, 86-38, and then a narrow margin over Mercedes, 50-48. They then beat Miller before dropping the semi-final to Los Fresnos by 6. That led to the third-place tilt, where sophomore Johnathan Barrientos was yet another of the talented kids who chipped in for the W.
“These guys know what they can do, so when we got challenged today, we responded,” said Ramos. “Pina had a nice tournament and it was good to see, we need him to do that. And Sauceda was great near the end, he made some big plays for us. Barrientos was also fantastic in this tournament. I think that we now are getting enough experience as a unit that when we need to come back, we can do it, we play through the trouble spots pretty well now.”
After a big early start Saturday, Econ hit the wall and back came Pioneer, cutting a 16-point deficit to two by the end of the third. But out of the quarter break, Salinas broke down the defense for a feed to Sauceda, and Brian Alvarez made a resounding block at the other end. Then Gonzalez stole one on an inbounds play as the Jags hustled their way back into command. Sauceda canned a bomb and then stole a pass, and the Orange was home free.
The Jags were to be in action Dec. 13 at home against Laredo LBJ and will face a road game at Edcouch-Elsa a week later.
BOBCAT, COOG GROWLS
Much ink has been spilled about the Bobcats’ one-two punch and that is proper, as sophomore Antoine Woodard and junior Jesus Cantu have averaged a combined 35 points and 18 rebounds in the team’s impressive 8-3 start.
Woodard had a stretch of games where he scored at least 20 five times in a row and for the year is at 20.1 ppg. Cantu is shooting 65 percent from the floor, averages 15.2 ppg and 9.9 rpg, and has pulled down 10 or more boards in seven games, including a season high of 16 versus Laredo Nixon at the Border Olympics.
But one of the reasons EHS has been so tough this season has to do with lesser-known quantities that have come through. After having paid his dues in the past and kept on fighting, senior Mikey Trevino has come of age. The little guard has hit for 12.4 ppg in 2016-17, and is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. He contributed 21 points against Laredo LBJ and a career-best 22 versus Rosenberg Terry.
His backcourt mate, Damian Garcia, has been equally as productive with a 10.9 clip and double figures in eight contests. The junior has connected on 77 percent of his tosses from the free throw line and notched a career-high 19 points in an early win against Laredo Cigarroa.
The Bobcats will be at the Rowe Tournament this weekend along with North, which continues to search for more consistency as the league race nears. The Coogs went to the Hidalgo Tourney looking for momentum after a 1-8 start, the program’s worst in more than a decade. On Thursday they broke even, losing by 4 to La Joya but coming back with a 14-point triumph over Donna North, setting up a rematch with a Rowe team that had had their number a few weeks back.
Despite the early season troubles. North should be able to launch into the 31-6A wars and make a difference with its depth and promising new comers. The Coogs defeated Rowe in a strong performance Friday before losing to a very dynamic Santa Rosa team in the nightcap at the Hidalgo Tourney.
Coach Rudy Garcia’s club went 1-1 on Saturday, beating Hidalgo but losing again to La Joya.