This one was a redemption win, yes, as the Coogs finally put together four quarters of excellent basketball, good for an upset on the road, against a city rival no less. But also one might consider the 73-62 victory over Econ Friday as something more: such as a warning for next year, because North definitely has the makings of a district contender in the future.
With newcomer Noah Chavana setting the tone in the first period with an unconscious shooting demonstration (5 for 5 from three-point range), North stood to be counted, all the way through. Though the team was a disappointing 2-6 coming in, it got excellent performances from many kids to beat the Jags, and several will be coming back ready to rock next year. One is lanky freshman Izaiah Rangel, who was immense down the stretch.
Once ahead by as many as 12 in the first half, the Coogs had seen the Jags (5-4 with the loss) come back into it, taking a lead at one point. Thanks to senior Isaiah Rivera (14 points, 10 in the third) North managed to forge back in front. Rangel came through with eight of his 10 in the fourth, and turned in back-to-back blocked shots at one point to key the W.
This is the way Coach Rudy Garcia figured his team was capable of playing, and the Coogs surely had a fine night, passing well on the interior, knocking down 10 bombs, and getting to the line 23 times in the fourth period alone. Senior Christian Espinoza was tough with 13 points and seven boards, and even brought the ball down the court a handful of times in the fourth.
“Seems like we got one tonight,” Garcia said after the 11-point upset. “We have been in most of the ball games we’ve lost, actually, but tonight we were able to sustain a solid effort for four quarters, and that was the key. It’s been a tough year but we definitely feel like we have the kids coming back next year to compete.”
It was a bad hit for the Jags, who ended a three-game losing streak with a pair of wins before being ambushed at home. They rebounded from a 23-12 deficit after a quarter and were down just 1 at the half, as Hugo Morales nailed a rare four-point play and Brian Alvarez sank a couple of hoops. It was a 5-point edge to North after three but Econ rushed its shots, did not share the basketball well enough, and could not make the plays in the final eight minutes.
Angel Salinas led the Orange with 19 points and Saul Alanis added 10, but Coach Carlos Ramos’ club, which had been improving on defense over the past two weeks, was outfoxed by the quick feeds down low by Espinoza and Joziah Vasquez. Combine that with a game-high 20 from the sophomore Chavana and the big-game competence of Rangel and Rivera, and the surprise was a reality.
Garcia noted that his kids were aggressive from the start, and even suggested a defensive wrinkle midway through.
“They wanted to come out and get into man, which we run a lot, we’d been back in the zone,” said Garcia, whose team has five games remaining in which to keep the buzz going. They have an outside chance of staying in the race, mathematically. “The guys were tough tonight and they put on a good exhibition of team basketball.”
Meanwhile the Jags did not do themselves any favors, and must now defeat P-SJ-A Southwest Tuesday to avoid falling to .500 in District 31-6A. Friday brings a rematch with 6-3 P-SJ-A North, which beat them by 8 back on Jan. 10, and the biggie versus unbeaten Vela comes on the road Feb. 7.
Once considered a lock for a playoff spot, the Jags now have to dig down deep after a 2-4 stretch following a 3-0 start to league play. They have to execute and take their time, because they definitely have the talent to get back on track and finish with a flourish.
NOTES: Vela launched to 9-0 with EHS right behind at 8-1 by week’s end. The Bobcats got 28 points Friday from junior Jesus Cantu, who had scored 35 in the previous four games combined. For the league season, Vela has allowed just 48.4 ppg.
On the girls’ side, EHS (10-1) leads Vela (9-2) by a game, with Pharr North (8-3) and Memorial (7-4) looking solid for playoff spots. Edinburg North (5-6) clobbered Econ Friday and still has an outside chance; the Lady Coogs were going to fight for their lives Tuesday against EHS. Vela held Memorial scoreless in the third period Friday and hung on for a 33-30 win, its sixth in a row.