Their drive to compete for a title is going to be uphill, as the Lady SaberCats are 0-2 against the frontrunners in District 31-6A, EHS and Weslaco. To keep the hoops quest alive as the second half of district play rolled into sight, Vela had to defeat city rivals North and Econ, which it accomplished last week, relatively easily.
Now 6-2 after clobbering the Lady Coogs Tuesday and the Lady Jags Friday, Coach Lottie Zarate’s club will attempt to knock off one of the top groups in the coming weeks. The good thing about it: both first-half losses came on the road, which means Vela gets Weslaco Jan. 22 and EHS Feb. 1, both at home.
In their six wins the Lady Sabes have jetted to nearly 62 ppg while allowing around 35 ppg. They are clearly in the top shelf with a tremendous defensive group and some dangerous outside shooters.
Against North Tuesday, the club led 8-0 after a period against a Lady Coog team that dropped to 0-7 with the loss and has had severe problems making shots from the field all season. Vela senior Kay Rios ended with 15 points including a couple of three-point makes, while freshman Lauren Vega (11) and senior Julia Cordon (10, second consecutive night in doubles) scored well. Senior Kameryn Casares had a great game, barging to eight rebounds and pitching in eight points as the Lady Sabes led by 12 at the half, outscored a flagging North unit 14-1 in the third, and finally closed out a 55-19 rout.
On a night when Blue and Black seniors were honored, pregame, Andrea Chapa turned in a most impressive outing, with nine rebounds. The subs got plenty of playing time and that might pay off as the key contests appear on the horizon. Vela lost by 18 to Weslaco and then was drubbed against EHS, by 34.
For North it has been a difficult campaign, as the loss to Vela marked its 20th overall debit, against just five wins. Minus newcomer Melo Cantu due to injury, the Lady Coogs were harried by the strong Vela pressure and were seldom able to get decent looks at the basket. They did pound the boards reasonably well with four girls grabbing at least five rebounds, led by juniors Kaitlyn Lozano and Miranda Gaytan, who had seven each. Junior Kaya Leija added six, senior Brenda Cantu five, and one can note that though they have not been terribly successful in 2018-19, Coach Jenny Garcia’s gals have not lost their fire and determination.
SABES DISMISS COOGS BY 21
In the early game of the doubleheader Tuesday, North assumed a 13-12 lead before Vela exploded into the lead, outscoring the Cougars 27-6 to take a resounding 39-19 lead into the intermission. With the eventual 65-44 loss, North dropped to 1-4 in district, and Rudy Garcia knows that the time is ripe for a comeback.
“We’ve been in all the games, no one has beaten us bad,” said the veteran coach, whose club was tied against Weslaco in the final period a few weeks ago before expiring; The team has lost to EHS by 7, Econ by 6, and Weslaco by 10. “I told the guys to remember last year, when we came out of the pack in the second half and ended up winning the district. We know we have the capability of doing that, it’s just a matter of cutting out mental mistakes and turnovers at the key times.”
Vela meanwhile improved to 4-1 ahead of Friday’s huge showdown at Econ, against a Jag team that stayed undefeated Tuesday with a great, tense W over previously unbeaten Weslaco.
The Sabes got a fine outing from senior post Noah Sekinger, who scored 24 points with 12 boards, ending a recent three-game stretch during which he’d averaged just under 8 ppg. Senior Josh Diaz scored 12 with seven rebounds, showing that he augments ball-handling and court generalship with underrated board talents.
After a torrid early run, North did not manage to settle in for much consistent halfcourt offense against a Vela defense that allowed just 46 ppg through five league games. Coog post Juan Garza was excellent at times Tuesday, recording six blocked shots and six rebounds, and Aldo Reta went bananas with all 14 of his points in the fourth period, sending four bombs into the net.