In the days leading up to Tuesday, which would be the biggest night of the season so far, they were ready to make a statement, loud and clear. All the Lady Bobcats - but especially the seniors – had pointed toward this one as a prime opportunity to assess some paybacks for last year, and they played like it for 32 devastating minutes, The statement, stressed with unmistakable force after a 77-36 tattooing of Vela on the road, was this: We remember.
For last year it was the Lady SaberCats who sprang the upset of the year at EHS, knocking Edinburg out of an undisputed district title. That late-season sorpresa sent the Lady ‘Cats into a tailspin that ended with a dismal performance in a bi-district loss to No. 4 seed San Benito.
“I think that was definitely on our mind, we wanted to make that statement,” said Coach J.D. Salinas after his team simply overpowered and overwhelmed the Lady Sabes, who dropped to 0-2 with the defeat. “But the truth is, we give all credit to Vela for what they were able to do last year, fair and square they beat us.”
It was demolition derby from the Lady ‘Cats from the get-go as they steamed to a 22-13 lead after a period and never looked back, going up by 21 at the half with an impressive showing at each end of the floor. The Santa Maria Sisters were masterful, combining for 46 points and at one point in the fourth period, senior Jayla had scored 27 points, Vela 32. That’s what kind of blowout it was. A total beatdown.
The seniors and Salinas suggested that the murderer’s row schedule the team endured in non-district play served to get the club ready for the league slog. EHS matched up against Weslaco, Harlingen, and McAllen Memorial a total of nine times, also going against San Antonio stalwarts Clark and Churchill twice each. That sked got them seasoned.
“Playing all those tough teams, we really came together as a team,” said Jayla Santa Maria, who notched nine in the first quarter and seven in the second to set her team up to improve to 2-0 in 31-6A, 18-7 overall. “We said, why back off now, we want to show that we have the potential to be great, and we were intent on having a big game tonight.”
Classmate Mercedes Hernandez, who had a solid playmaking game at the point and flashed some of the breakneck defense that has been her trademark for four memorable campaigns, agreed.
“I felt like we wanted to come out and score 100 points, we wanted to show that while all the non-district games were good for us, we knew that district is what matters,” she commented. “We wanted to show what we could do, and we all remembered what happened last year, it motivated us to come out and be sharp, focused.”
Vela, which had been upended by North in its opener, tried to survive the sharpshooting onslaught, and senior Bianca Cortez was active early, scoring 10 in first. But besides her, none of the other Lady Sabes was able to find much room, as EHS deflected pass after pass, gave no second-shot chances, and ran the floor in transition like a well-oiled machine. The visitor nearly matched a season high for points, falling two short of the 79 amassed against Brownsville Vets.
Cortez finished with 22 of her team’s 36 markers; no other teammate managed more than four.
“We had a lot of energy tonight,” Salinas noted. “At first our press didn’t work that well but had a junk defense that allowed us to trap in the corners, get side-to-side movement on defense. And we moved the ball well on offense. The girls did play with a chip on their shoulder because of last year and it helped our intensity and motivation. I am very proud of our team for how they played.”
The domination was capped in an interesting way during the final four minutes, when Hernandez and Jenessah Santa Maria took turns keeping the ball outside, dribbling around the defenders and holding possession for the last half of the quarter, sometimes standing with the ball for 30 seconds or more as the action – such that is was - came to a halt. It was a fitting if mildly controversial way to wrap up the statement game. But having refused to give the Lady Sabes a chance to win for 28 minutes Tuesday, the Lady ‘Cats finished the affair in total control for the last four.