She’s paid the price the last few years, has Mari Campos, enduring some difficult basketball seasons and nevertheless getting the most out of her kids, week after week. Since last making the playoffs in 2013-14, led by mega-stars Emily Suarez and Sylvia Perez, the Lady Jags have been struggling to compete.

But now the Econ coach is enjoying a resurgence as her patience and the kids’ hard work have paid off with a solid 6-7 start, buoyed by a crop of newcomers who comprise probably the best group of freshmen ever to wear the orange. Friday at home the Lady Jags made mincemeat out of Roma, 54-17, and it’s clear that things are looking up on the East Side.

“We’ve got three starting and two coming off the bench,” said Campos, referring to her 9th-grade class of standouts. “These freshman have all played together for years, they won a district championship in middle school, and they are getting a lot of playing time already.”

The cast is led by highly skilled Marsia Perez, who tossed in 18 points against Roma and possesses excellent court vision and quickness. She is the youngest of three Perez sisters, after Sylvia and Karla, and should be a fixture for four years. Up front, Arlysa Sierra is a physical force who also competes in wrestling, while lefty point guard Jasmine Loredo – she also has bloodlines, from older sisters in softball – is aggressive and difficult to guard. Together, the youngsters have invigorated a program seeking a return to relevance.

“It’s a different group this year, the mix of young and veteran,” said Campos, a former college softball player after a fine diamond/hoops/cheer career at Beeville HS. “There’s a lot of teaching to do, but the chemistry is there, especially with the freshmen, this group has a higher basketball IQ to start with, they all played for years under Jude Guerra, so they’re well coached.”

Former North hoopster Guerra has a daughter, rangy Jade, who is part of the new Fab Five, and Campos believes the program has a great nucleus for the future. Forward Marcela Herrera, the other fish, had six points against Roma.

“We are seeing them grow up game by game, they have brought an energy to the team which is good to see,” Campos said. “Everyone on this team knows their role, and they just want to win; our sophomore group is doing pretty well, and we have some older girls who know how to play.”

Among the returners are guards Francheska Guevara, who was a defensive stopper against Roma, and Nelly Morales, perhaps the most experienced Lady Jag. Econ got out to an 11-0 lead early Friday, with a swarming press that created numerous turnovers. Loredo threw in two hoops and Guevara did too, leading to a rout that marked the second time in three tries that the Lady Jags have defeated the Lady Gladiators this season.

The team is scoring more than a dozen more points than it did in 2017-18, and the only drawback Friday was a simply unacceptable 1-for-15 disaster from the free-throw line.

‘That and we are getting into too much foul trouble too early,” said Campos, noting that this area is something all freshmen struggle with. “The refs are different at the varsity level, and the girls just have to get used to that. One thing that has helped is technology.”

Campos explained that with Hudl and other innovations, the Lady Jags are spending a lot more time watching game film than they used to.

“Wednesday for example, we were pretty banged up after playing a bunch of games, so all we did was watch game film,” she explained. “It’s so easy to do now and seeing the things they are doing, and sometimes that is on the same night, it really helps the kids figure out what they need to get better at.”

The spirit is high for the Lady Jags, and as they look to the beginning of District 31-6A play, they know that the hill to climb is a steep one. But bolstered by the influx of some talented newcomers, they think that when all is said and done, they will be able to make some noise in the race.

“It’s been fun so far,” Campos noted. “We know that we are improved from last year but now we have to take on the teams in our district and continue to get better, little by little.”