Coming into the season, they were being touted as a team to watch, especially after a very promising performance in the summer league. Explosive, athletic and ready to make a splash, the Jags ran off a 13-3 non-district record, and their reputation kept on growing.
Now, Econ has begun the District 31-6A season with three wins in a row, and Coach Carlos Ramos is excited to see what comes next.
“These kids, after last year, they got started after the last game and they haven’t stopped yet,” said the second-year coach, who has a versatile bunch that can do many things well. “We have really worked hard, the guys are always together, they really wanted to come in and have a good season. So far, so good.”
Everyone around the Valley is talking about the Jags with their length, quickness and outside shooting prowess. Against North Tuesday, they showed some of those skills, and also proved they can win a low-scoring slugfest of a Rivalry Game.
The 45-35 victory at North will not go down as one of the best technical performances of 2017, for either team, but the Jags were able to complete the decision and rise to 3-0. Tricky senior Miguel Gonzalez set the tone early with some smooth moves inside, tallying three baskets in the first period as Econ rolled to an early 12-4 lead. With the behind-the-back dribble leading to lefty layups at the rack, Gonzalez got the ball rolling.
After Joziah Vazquez rallied the Coogs (0-3 after the loss) with six in the second, North trailed by just four at the half.
But with Josh Sauceda and Simon Pina hitting from long range, Ramos’ club pushed the advantage to 12 in the third.
The Coogs got to within 8 in the fourth after a bomb from sophomore Ricky Alaniz, but down the stretch the visitor prevailed, as junior Saul Alaniz chunked in a pair of baskets and the Jags handled the pressure of a Rivalry Game well enough.
Sauceda, who was terrific on defense with six steals, led the team with 14 points and Gonzalez finished with 11. Vazquez (11) paced the Coogs while rangy leaper Isaiah Rangel had eight; senior Cristian Espinoza chipped in seven with seven rebounds. Econ held a plus-14 board margin, Gonzalez raking in 11, and soph Angel Salinas collected seven caroms off the glass.
From there, the Jags easily defeated P-SJ-A Southwest to prepare for a huge week of competition. Tuesday they were to play at Pharr North and then Friday loomed a home showdown against unbeaten Vela. Earlier in the season Econ lost by 12 to the SaberCats and the Orange knows that if it harbors championship hopes, a split in the district series with the vaunted New Cats is a must.
“We know that even though we had a good record in non-district, those games didn’t matter as far as the standings are concerned,” Ramos said. “But those games have given us confidence and experience, so in a way they did matter.”
NOTES: Friday, the Lady Jags worked for their initial victory of the district season, by 2 over P-SJ-A Southwest. The Vela squads split with Pharr North Friday, the boys nipping the Raiders by 3 but the girls losing 48-36. The Lady Sabes are now 3-2 and senior Jaida Muhammad has averaged 16.4 ppg in district, including a career-best 28 against P-SJ-A Southwest two weeks back. Junior Bianca Cortez (47 points in three games) has been in and out of the lineup with injuries.