It just couldn’t be richer, at all.
The Lady Bobcats got past the first round of the playoffs in good shape Monday, whipping Los Fresnos by 15 to notch their 31st win of the season. Now, as the roll continues into the area round, the next step for EHS – seeking to make some basketball history – is against a team coached by the woman who made quite a lot of memories with the Lady Bobcats not so long ago. It’s Laredo United, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Corpus Christi Ray HS, and United (31-5) is led by … Rachel Carmona!!!
That is so good it isn’t even funny, as the assistant for some of the best EHS teams ever, current Lady ‘Cat leader J.D. Salinas, now gets to tackle his mentor Carmona with a trip to the regional quarterfinals on the line. Who writes these scripts, anyway?
Carmona, a Laredo native who played ball at Pan American and came to EHS in the late 1990s after a successful stint at Hidalgo, made the Lady ‘Cats a regular in the playoffs, and beyond: perhaps her finest crew played back in 2006, when the Big Three paced the squad all the way to the regional tournament in San Antonio. Marah Guzman, Liz Olvera, and Gina Ferrer … giants of the past, all.
And now the Santa Marias, Mercy Hernandez, the rest of the new gang, they all get the chance to show they belong in the same conversation about Lady Bobcat prowess and exploits.
Of course, it truly began in the 1980s with legendary Nora Zamarripa’s excellent run at the helm of the program, but Carmona took the routine into the rare heights, establishing the Lady ‘Cats as perhaps the best team in the Valley for a number of seasons, along with Harlingen (coached by Zamarripa) and Harlingen South (manned by the great Dawn Engelman). Salinas has brought the EHS crew to that level of excellence, save for a long playoff run.
So here it is, Edinburg puts it all on the line with so much familiarity and irony afoot. But beyond the history, there is the game, pitting a team with great balance (EHS) versus one with a standout scorer (junior Natalie Trevino at almost 22 ppg) and a ton of effective role players.
The Lady Longhorns have amassed a 10-0 mark against Valley teams this season, beating the likes of McAllen Memorial (twice), Los Fresnos, Brownsville Vets, and P-SJ-A Memorial. They split with a very tough Nixon crew, and in district split with Laredo Alexander, losing twice to rival Laredo United South to finish 11-3 in district. This week in bi-district Alexander beat McAllen while United South stomped Juarez-Lincoln by 48, and United clobbered Palmview, 75-35.
The Lady ‘Cats, meanwhile, are 31-8 and simply decimated the field in 31-6A this time around, amassing a 14-0 mark and winning by an average score of 71-29. They battled a salty Los Fresnos outfit well enough, and now United.
EHS for the season gets 59.6 ppg, compared to 65 for the Lady ’Horns; both teams are solid at three-point shooting, and each is 65 percent from the free throw line. Salinas has the edge in experience with two of the finest seniors in the region, four-year starters Hernandez and Jayla Santa Maria. United has a junior-dominated club including the high-scoring Trevino. Santa Maria (18.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Hernandez (10.1, 138 assists, 125 steals) and junior Jenessah Santa Maria (10.9, 106 assists, 117 steals) are the bell cows, with sophomore Bri Sanchez (8.5 rpg, 58 blocks) and freshmen A’nnika Saenz and Daysha Tijerina adding talented depth.
The winner of this titanic clash will go against the victor of San Benito-Alexander, with a berth in the Sweet 16 at stake. One thing is for sure, and that is that the coaches will downplay the history angle in favor of just playing their game and forcing the opponent to follow on behind. Nonetheless, Carmona-Salinas is a pair that has given city hoops fans many thrills in the past, and Friday should provide more of the same.