With the district season approaching, we are starting to see what the city clubs have to offer in 2017-18, and nothing so far has suggested that any of them will not be real factor in the District 31-6A race.

With Econ and North over at the City of Palms in McAllen for the weekend, and EHS down the road at the Tri-Cities Classic, fans willing to travel got their share of scouting done. And they were able to see the locals claim a pair of titles. The Cougars advanced to the semi-finals of the Rowe Tourney with a sharp win over the host Warriors Friday, bouncing back from a debit against Brownsville Pace the day before. They then saw the Vikings again in the championship Saturday, winning some revenge and a first-place trophy in the process, 70-54.

In that loss, junior Abraham Nunez went bananas with a season-high 28 points, and he continues to give offensive production inside and out. Nunez was the tourney MVP for the champion Coogs, who defeated McAllen by 2 to reach the finals Saturday and subsequently defeated Pace after two prior losses to that strong 5A outfit.

Junior Ricky Alaniz expected to be back from an injury by Monday with teammate Noah Chavana hoping to return at some point during the run-up to league play. Given their absence, the championship run at the Palms bodes well for Coach Rudy Garcia’s crew in the long run. Ben Vela, Josias Vazquez, and Zay Rangel were All-Tournament for North in McAllen.

Econ did not make the money rounds at the Palms, but did steamroll through Palmview Thursday, following a 1-point loss to highly touted Los Fresnos. Coach Carlos Ramos noted that his club had a shot to record the upset of the Falcons but missed at the buzzer, and for the year, Econ has dropped five games by a total of 17 points; the club is 12-8 now.

Guard play has been sound for the Orange, as Johnny Barrientos (42 3’s) and Angel Salinas (All-Tourney at McAllen) have scored a combined 24 ppg; Simon Pina chips in eight a game and had a game-high 20 points against Palmview, scoring consistently on strong drives to the basket. Frontcourt man Saul Alanis (7.5) and Aizer Cavazos (6.4) provide solid work around the basket, and as Alanis recovers from an ankle sprain, his numbers should increase.



Meanwhile, EHS was strong at the Tri-Cities, taking the title in the Platinum Bracket, the toughest in an event stacked with fine schools. Antoine Woodard won his second MVP award, taking co-top honors at Pharr along with teammate Jesus Cantu, after having won the award at the Craig Smith. He and Cantu led the team to the hardware with a 50-48 squeaker Saturday over Laredo United South, with the two stars combined for 32 markers.

EHS (15-5) had taken out Laredo United South and Donna North Thursday, following that up with wins Friday versus Brownsville Vets and Harlingen. The Bobcats trailed against Vets until they got cooking with four guys in doubles. Damian Garcia nailed three treys in the 56-50 decision and Jorge Hernandez had some big baskets including a tough lefty drive late in the day. Guard Matt Cruz handled the Charger press down the stretch and continues to show surprising rebound ability. EHS has won 12 of its last 13 games after a 3-4 start and the victory over Harlingen Friday propelled it into the semis, where success came against Hanna and South.

In essence, each of the city clubs is rising to the occasion, as they look to eventually lock down four playoff spots from 31-6A. North has La Joya at home Tuesday, the same night that EHS entertains Palmview, and Econ travels to San Benito.

For the kickoff night in district Dec. 22, the ‘Cats have P-SJ-A Memorial on the road while North gets Pharr North at home and the Jags are at P-SJ-A. Vela starts defense of the league title against P-SJ-A Southwest. As for the Tri-Cities group, North and Memorial rank a notch ahead of the Bears and Southwest, after the season’s first six weeks.

NOTES: Last week the Review reported that Hearlin Benavides of EHS had set a city record for rushing yards. The fact is, the great junior indeed established a school mark, but the city standard is still held by Econ’s Ryan Richardson, who neared the 2,000-yard mark back in 2003.