They still haven’t clicked on the whole ticket yet, which is good and bad news for the rest of the district. Econ pulled off a stunner at the wire Friday, beating Vela by 2 to rise to 4-1 in District 31-6A despite another unbalanced offensive output.
Sudden star Saul Calzada dropped in a layup at the buzzer to hand the Jags the victory.
With one second left it was tied at 44 and the visiting SaberCats tried a length-of-the-court pass, only to see the ball carom off the ceiling. Econ inbounded with a looping pass to the hulking Calzada, who came through.
“That’s the way we are, we just find a way,” said junior guard Angel Salinas, who carried the Jags (18-9 overall) with 20 points, including six three-point makes. “I trust my teammates to do something to help us win, anything.”
This was the second Rivalry Game in a row in which Salinas was about the only Jag scoring, closely following in tone a 2-point loss at home to North. Econ also continued its penchant for being the greatest first quarter team in the Valley, then having trouble later in games.
“I have been trying to figure that one out,” said Coach Carlos Ramos. “Is it us, the coaches, or is it maybe the kids … I finally figured it out, and I think it just shows our growth as a team. In order to take that next step, this is what we are going through, learning how to finish.”
As stated, when the Jags come out and run, play summer style, they are tough, as evidenced by a 19-9 start to a Friday game that was moved from Vela to Econ because of a … cough, robotics event at the former. Anyway.
The SaberCats, looking mighty good lately with a 4-game winning streak to begin league play, competed without Trey Chavana, down with the flu. He was missed and the club missed a ton of chippies in falling down by 10, but it got some sparks off the bench from Matt Arteaga to rebound. Meanwhile, Salinas was in his element, hitting the bomb and finding open mates for good looks. Aizer Cavazos was the beneficiary of three crisp first-half feeds from Salinas.
But Vela responded with a 15-7 second period, Arteaga nailing a three and Josh Diaz tossing his share of hoops. Arteaga’s 2-pointer gave the Sabes a brief lead before Econ’s Johnny Barrientos nailed a trifecta to give his guys a 26-24 lead at the break.
It seemed that the sophomore Arteaga, part of a real youth movement for Coach Davd Keith’s five, was in the middle of the key junctures. His basket in the third put the Sabes up by 2 but after a couple of long, arching 3’s from Salinas, the Jags went up by 3 after three. The third period was just gross, turnovers and mistakes abounding.
Vela struggled all day to get the ball inside to senior Noah Sekinger, the leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. He ended with 12 points and eight boards before fouling out (probably) in the final minute.
Down the stretch, the SaberCats rallied a couple of times but Salinas had the answer, tossing in two more treys and eliciting wild appreciation from the Orange crowd. After Jordan de la Rosa converted an old-fashioned three-point play to tie it at 41, Salinas connected at 0:47, floating back down court while flashing the hand-to-eye signal for the three-ball. High theater!
At 0:22, Sekinger was whistled for a foul and for a full five minutes coaches and officials bandied back and forth, trying to decide if the big post had finished his evening. In the end, the refs went with the home scorebook, though Vela people insisted that Sekinger has just four fouls, not the disqualifying fifth.
Sophomore Bobby Espericueta seemed to save the day with a money 3 at 0:09, but that led to the final denouement when Calzada, a seldom-seen sub who stands 6-4 and looks more like an offensive tackle than a baller, was the hero.
“The thing is, it shouldn’t have even gotten to that point if we had taken care of business,” said Ramos, whose team was set for Tuesday’s showdown with unbeaten EHS. “But we are gaining experience in these big games, learning how to finish, so right now, at 4-1, we’ll take it.”
NOTES: The Bobcats ran to 5-0 by beating Pharr North Friday, while North held serve in the three-way tie for second – with Vela and Econ – with a career-high 32 points from sophomore Zay Rangel versus P-SJ-A. Damian Garcia led the Bobcats with 22 against the Raiders.