Leading up to the Rivalry Game with North Friday, Zeke Cuellar told his basketball team that the winner would be the group that kept its composure under pressure.
Cuellar’s EHS bunch improved to 3-0 in District 31-6A with a 62-46 victory at home over the Coogs, withstanding a late North run to salt away the triumph.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of handling the pressure, we preached composure all week,” said Cuellar, who got 19 points from explosive sophomore Antoine Woodard and 16 from classmate Jesus Cantu. “These games are intense and emotional, so the kids needed to keep their cool and just play the game.”
The Bobcats, who rode out to a big lead with Woodard hitting three bombs in the first half, also benefited from strong guard play. When North hit back-to-back threes in the fourth to get to within 8, EHS ran its set offense and got a couple of sharp assists from senior Mikey Trevino inside to Cantu. The team scored the final eight points to close it out and send the Coogs to 0-3 in district.
Junior Damian Garcia (15 points) continued to show his improved all-around game for the Bobcats, while Woodard and Cantu combined for nine blocked shots Friday.
“They’ve been doing that all year, closing it down inside,” Cuellar said. “And with Antoine, well, he is just hard to stop in transition, he takes long strides like a gazelle and teams can scheme for him all they want … but in the open court, you are just not going to be able to stay with him.”
North performed well in stretches and the future looks bright for Coach Rudy Garcia’s club. The Coogs have some length and athleticism with freshman Isaiah Rangel and transfer sophomore Noah Chavana. Soph Ricky Alaniz, who knocked in one of the rally treys, has the potential to be a standout.
As it stands, North is still seeking consistency from its refurbished group, but with its dangerous supply of athletes, will certainly be able to get back into the race at some point; the next scheduled match was against P-SJ-A Memorial Tuesday.
Cristian Espinoza led the effort against EHS with 13 markers and trusty vet Sam Gomez is doing his best to solidify the sets and lend a steady hand. The Coogs trailed by 18 at the half Friday before coming on. Gomez and Alaniz connected from downtown to make it 54-46 with 4:28 left. But with Cantu soring eight in the fourth, EHS remained unbeaten and rose to 16-3 overall heading into this week’s action.
“We showed we can recover after the other team makes a run,” said Cuellar, whose team plays P-SJ-A Southwest next. “We knew North was going to battle but the kids played well together, they executed in the fourth quarter and they used the homecourt advantage well today.”