This would be the week. If the Lady SaberCats are going to launch back into the prime level of the playoff hunt, the next two games – at home against North Tuesday and a road test at EHS three days later – are the hill to negotiate.
Following a 57-15 cakewalk at Econ Friday, Vela stood 3-4 in District 31-6A and 18-10 overall. A split at least was imperative for the team, which would begin the crucial week in fifth, a game behind North and two shy of P-SJ-A Memorial.
Coach Lottie Zarate wasn’t taking anything for granted against winless Econ, and with an inexperienced group that is still searching for consistency, that made sense.
“We are building chemistry and it’s just a process new teams have to go through,” said Zarate, in her sixth season as head cheese. “We are looking for chemistry still but I’ll tell you what, these girls are coachable, they listen, and that lets me know that we are going to be alright.”
Last week was good, as Vela defeated P-SJ-A by 23 before walloping the Lady Jags out east. Encouraging signs for the stretch included a 17-point performance from Abby Arredondo in the first match, when she fired in nine points early on and showed the scoring ability the Lady Sabes will need to go with veterans Bianca Cortez and Kayleen Rios, who combine for 22 points per game.
“It’s starting to come for her, and for some other kids,” Zarate said. “Lots of new faces and they just have to learn not to force things, let the game come to them. Everyone is working hard right now.”
Another positive sign from the week that was: the breakneck hustle of junior Julia Cordon, who is a real brawler out there with agility and resilience. Cordon pumped in 13 points against Econ and as always was at the fore of the defensive effort. With Kameryn Casares sidelined after a nasty eye cut, others in Blue and Black have stepped it up, including Lorena Carillo, who grabbed seven boards Friday. In that contest, Cortez and Rios notched 26 points between them, and Cortez contributed 13 rebounds.
The Lady Jags, meanwhile, saw a promising trend come to an end. In their four previous outings they had upped the team scoring total each time, but Friday just could not connect. To the good, however, was the play of junior point guard Terry Castillo, who showed some quickness and creativity with the basketball. She also sports some serious braids; that, and her diminutive size brings to mind a Lady Jag of old, the amazing Emily Suarez, now running cross country at TCU.
MILESTONE FOR SANTA MARIA
She’s been doing it with elan since freshman year, and now Jayla Santa Maria can safely take her spot with the EHS legends of all time. The versatile senior passed the 2,000-point mark in a win over Pharr North Friday with a career-best 36-point outburst.
Her exploits led the Lady Bobcats to a surprisingly easy 82-53 victory over the previously unbeaten Lady Raiders, on a night when EHS sank a season-best 12 threes and dominated the smaller North crew inside. Coach J.D. Salinas’ bunch ended the first half of district with an unblemished mark, and sit atop the Valley rankings as many assumed they would in 2017-18.
Freshman A’nnika Saenz poured in five bombs against Pharr North and reminded city observers why, among other elements, the team is so much more successful than the rest: they make shots, consistently, while all the other outfits have had their troubles sinking the rock this season.
North certainly made shots in whipping P-SJ-A Friday, 56-35. The Lady Coogs rose to 4-3 and more importantly got back on the winning track after successive losses. Miranda Faz had her district-best of 10 points for the squad, which was to take on Vela Tuesday in the aforementioned showdown.