They make for a fascinating dynamic duo, one quiet and workmanlike – highly skilled – and the other excitable, effusive, and prodigiously athletic. Together, Jesus Cantu and Antoine Woodard have combined to lead the Bobcats to 21 wins so far, and their talents were on display in good measure Tuesday.
At North for the second round of the ancient grudge match with the Cougars, they went off for 33 points and 19 rebounds total to pace EHS to a 54-45 triumph over a sluggish Coog band that failed to duplicate last week’s excellent performance at Econ. Junior Cantu, so methodical and composed and yet quick-handed and growing more aggressive by the week, rolled to 16 points and 12 rebounds, following up a recent game against P-SJ-A in which he shot 14 of 16 from the floor and finished with 28 points/16 caroms.
Sophomore Woodard, the lithe lightning bolt who is already one of the most athletic players to ever don the Red and Blue, showed his continued maturity by passing for three sharp assists early on, when the Coogs threw a box-and-one at him. Finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds, he had a series of high-flying and acrobatic swoops to the goal and late in the night punched home an emphatic left-handed tomahawk slam.
The Bobcats, as the girls had done in the early bout of the doubleheader, got out quick, amassing a 17-4 advantage early in the second stanza, as both superb underclassmen were active on defense with five combined blocks.
To North’s credit, the night was by no means over, as freshman Izaiah Rangel – another of the outstanding underclassmen in town – revved it up for six points; when yet another top prospect, sophomore Ricky Alaniz, connected from downtown late in the half, the Coogs had put a 13-3 spurt on the board to close to within four at the break.
But with Fire and Ice throwing down 15 points in the third, plus the continued solid play of junior Damian Garcia in the backcourt, the ‘Cats pushed it out of reach with a 25-9 quarter.
Coach Zeke Cuellar said that the message at the half was simple.
“They knew they had to come out and get after it that first part of the third, because they had let North cut into the lead,” said Cuellar, whose group climbed to 9-1 in district pending Friday’s matchup with P-SJ-A Southwest. “They did a good job of jumping back in control during that period.”
The Coogs again rallied in the final stages to net 20 in the fourth, transfer Noah Chavana leading the surge with 10 of his team-best 15 points in the last eight minutes. However, the club dropped to just 3-7 for the season with the defeat.
For their part, Woodard and Cantu may have different personalities, but they are united in goals and assessment of the season to date.
“I’m not surprised that we have been able to do this well so far,” said Cantu, a polite and well-spoken chap. “We did have a young team coming in, but we have all matured together. I think the important thing is that we try to learn something from every game, losses as well as wins. You can always learn something.”
Woodard, whose ebullient energy is indelibly infectious, on and off the hardwood, agreed with that, adding that learning to play together has benefited the ‘Cats.
“It’s all about the chemistry, we do best when we play as a team,” said the junior leaper, noting that his passing display early on Tuesday was part of that drill. “We work together, play as a team, and we are going to be hard to beat.”