The matchup pitting EHS and North Wednesday night was significant in various ways, namely for who was there, for who wasn’t, and for who will not.
Both the Bobcats and Cougars find themselves in a sort of transition mode for the summer, as indicated by the pregame festivities. While the teams milled around waiting to go at it, Noah Chavana was chatting with Izaiah Rangel. The former is still out after a serious injury, but is hoping to be ready to compete for the Coogs when his senior season kicks in. The latter, a Coog teammate of old, is now playing for Pharr North and the Raiders are not at the Edinburg summer league, having opted instead for a similar muster over in Hidalgo.
The jumping jack Rangel sat in the stands later, with the Alaniz crew, Natalie and former North coach Robert Alaniz, who were watching family member Ricky … as a member of the Bobcats after a transfer from North.
So that should outline it fairly well as North, last year’s district champ, will be a different unit in 2018-19, minus many of the kids who helped make that happen. Foremost among the returners are Juan Vazquez and Andrew Nunez, seasoned vets who will be the nucleus of the new charge.
But as the Coogs blasted EHS Wednesday, some new faces showed potential to become contributors for Coach Rudy Garcia in the winter. That would include lanky and athletic junior-to-be Sergio Quintanilla, who scored a dozen points and was very active on the drive and in transition. And it would also mean 6-3 senior-in-waiting Juan Garza, who recorded five blocks and six rebounds. Quite a wingspan, he has.
Meanwhile, the ‘Cats were minus superstar Antoine Woodard, who is not playing this summer, and that is a big hole in the put-together. Without the exciting leaper running the action, the squad got real small all of a sudden, though big man John Carranco, a sometime rotation guy last year, is looking to break into the lineup. He is fairly quick and shows a decent shot from the perimeter: with the graduation of 6-5 stalwart Jesus Cantu, Carranco’s time is about now.
Coach Zeke Cuellar watched his team fall behind fast, as it failed to get good looks and did not defend terribly well at the other end. It was 13-7, North after six from Vazquez early and then Quintanilla rolled to a three-point play followed by a Garza layup.
By the half it was 28-17, the ‘Cats staying within shouting range mainly thanks to the inspired play from Jorge Hernandez. The shifty little guard had a fine night with hustle, drives to the dish, and toughness on the defensive end. He had 10 points and some nice feeds, and continued to display fearless activity at a guard spot. The other backcourt men, Matt Cruz and Marc Figueroa, were for the most part quiet Wednesday, but they know that they – along with transfer Alaniz – are going to have to prepare to carry a load this season, with or without the mercurial Woodard.
The final was 46-26, North, and admittedly, the Coogs caught the ‘Cats on a night when little went well, at all. The matches between the two will be different once the regular season arrives, one suggests.
The Coogs, so riddled with change, are getting there, it seems.
“We are going to have to play fast, on both ends,” Chavana said Wednesday. “We aren’t that big inside so we are going to have to make sure teams don’t settle in and start posting us up in the halfcourt. But I think we have some quickness, speed, so we can probably run and pass, and do pretty well.”
As for his long layoff, which began after he was sidelined during the nascent weeks of last season, the slender sniper was philosophical.
“I have been out awhile, really, and I had been kinda bummed out about it,” he said. “I recently started running again, so that was cool. But when I got back out to the gym for these games it hit me, I had forgotten how much I really missed this. I hope to be ready when the season comes.”
The wild cards are legion, for both schools. Will Chavana be able to return, giving Garcia a heady ballhandler and dead-eye shot? Will Woodard be with EHS for his senior season? Which of these two groups will recover quickest and best from the bevy of graduation and transfer losses? These are the questions to ponder moving ahead.
JAGS UP AND DOWN LAST WEEK
After the EHS-North game, Econ took the court to battle a very physical McAllen group, and despite holding a 13-point lead early, ended up on the flat end of a 57-53 final count. It was vintage Jags, as at times they were insane: the first stretch saw them bang in six threes and lead 19-6 at one point.
From that point, the Bulldogs came on, cutting into the margin with superior strength inside and some penetration from stocky guards. Mac led by 1 at the half but Johnny Barrientos led a surge, hitting three free throws in a row for a 35-34 Econ edge heading to the last stanza. There, it was excellent action with the teams scrapping hard. The Jags held the advantage with Angel Salinas (eight in the fourth despite an injury) driving off 1-v-1 and converting, often with the left hand.
Rick Chapa of the Jags scored inside for a 43-42 lead but McAllen forged ahead down the stretch, going up 52-47 with 2:25 left. Salinas made two at the line and Econ crept to within 2 before falling. They had narrowly beaten North earlier in the slate, and had been topped by Vela.