CHAVANA, SEKINGER COMBINE FOR 43 OF 60 POINTS
The obvious factors were, well, obvious: Trey Chavana as The Bomb in the fourth quarter, hitting two late daggers that spelled the end for North Tuesday. Noah Sekinger’s mammoth numbers of 23 points and 14 rebounds: they couldn’t hold the big fella.
But the lesser-known elements leading to Vela’s solid 60-54 home victory over the Cougars bear some analysis. One was offensive rebounding. Besides outboarding the rival by 15, Vela came up with three huge offensive rebounds in the fourth as it sought to hold off North. Another was contribution from role players, as Vince Olivarez pitched in some key hoops and Matthew Arteaga did some great last-minute work.
In all, the 6-point win was satisfying for Vela as it prepared to take on EHS Friday. Especially because North had been absolutely brilliant from beyond the arc in the first half, making eight treys. Junior Ricky Alaniz, finding his marksmanship now after extended injury time, led the parade with a trio of perfect rainbows while Felix Aleman made a pair.
Despite the long-range show, The Coogs led just by 4 at break as its offense went away from sophomore Zay Rangel, who had tallied 55 points the past two magnificent outings. The leaping youngster had his hands full inside trying to contain the 6-5 Sekinger, who topped the 20-point mark for the third time in six league games. He had 14 in the half as Vela stayed close, and it was in sum a very well played night with few turnovers and many streaks of excellence by both sides.
Down the stretch, Chavana was the man, hitting clutch chunks from downtown. The SaberCats had rallied from seven down late in the third into a 45-44 lead after three. And in the fourth, more taut back-and-forth play from friendly enemies.
If there was yet another X-Factor in Vela’s win, it was sophomore Austin Garza, who is beginning to make his own mark. Following the best player in SaberCat history, his older brother Ryan, isn’t easy to do. But the mop-top New Garza made some simply crafty moments, reminding observers of the former Garza with his quick hands, knack for taking the charge, and unflappable poise on the court.
To start the last period, Garza drew an offensive foul, minutes after he had gone to the floor in the backcourt to locate a loose ball, passing between two North defenders to start a successful break. He is well skilled and clever.
But North had its own worthy contributors, such as Tony Beltran, who grabbed four boards and hit a huge fourth-quarter shot to keep the Coogs in the running. North led 49-48 on another Alaniz swish, followed by a steal from Beltran. But Arteaga D’d up to force a 5-second call and after Sekinger’s power move to the rack it was 52-50, Sabes. Rangel nailed a jumper to re-tie it and then Bobby Espericueta zoomed in for an offensive carom and in the air fed to an open Chavana, who connected for the triple at 2:09.
Later, Vela led by 3 with the ball when Garza hustled for a board off a missed Sabe shot, setting up Chavana, who did the honors from deep for a 58-52 advantage at 0:59. This one effectively ended the affair in favor of the Blue and Black.
North got ample scoring from Andrew Nunez (team-high 16) who drove relentlessly to the tin, but it was not enough to counter Vela, which did the dirty work down low and threw in four 3’s in the second half after making none in the first.