They kind of hang in the shadows, checking out the action without having to be in charge and during that unusual respite – given the chance to see how the upcoming recipe is taking form – the city’s hoops coaches are fairly regular in attendance at the Parks and Rec.
It means one can see J.D. Salinas of EHS sitting in the bleachers on a Tuesday night, with Vela’s Lottie Zarate standing at the end of one court, off to the right, and later note that Jenny Garcia – whose entire family, it seems, is invested in summer ball, from daughter and niece to husband and back – has been prowling the building as well.
What is that they have seen so far, after a week of action in June? Quite a lot, questions and answers, maybes, and sudden bursts of hmmmm.
When Vela tackled North Tuesday, that meant almost literally as both teams scrapped for the duration. Oftentimes, summer is not long on smooth execution, and usually replete with hard D and copious amounts of fouls. The Lady SaberCat victory over their city rival was this sort of punchout as Zarate’s club seeks to learn what the post-Kayleen Rios Era has in store.
A good thing for the unit is guard play, where junior-to-be Dre Molina is set to become one of the team leaders after averaging about 10 ppg as a sophomore. She’s about up the learning curve and is helping fellow backcourters Diane Almazan and Kyra Garcia into the mix now. Both have some quickness and will jump out to defend; Vela’s defense was probably the key to a 10-point win over North.
With other starters having graduated besides Rios – Julia Cordon comes to mind here – it will fall to veteran Kameryn Casares to continue her fierce interior work, with a potential assist from tallish sophomore Anuyda Chapa; the latter seems to be fearless out there and has some length, which will come in handy for a program that spent last season making up for a general lack of size.
Another gal who could be a difference-maker this time around is the frenetic Dylan Cantu, who is working on ball-handling in June and could be a classic swingman able to play inside or out heading forward. Cantu is getting extended minutes with last year’s breakout star, Lauren Vega, still on the mend from a broken collarbone.
The North unit that led a few times in the second half before fading has a solid nucleus in point guard Miranda Gaytan and rugged Kaitlyn Lozano. The Lady Coogs also have both Cantu Sisters back in the fold, and some other potentially effective players. Sariah Garza had a nice game against Vela, holding forth down low with some offensive boards and blocks.
Expect North to improve on 2018-19’s one-win district performance, as it will have size on its side along with the steady generalship of Gaytan.
Meanwhile, EHS went to battle against Edcouch-Elsa that night, and put 15 straight on the board in the second quarter to salt away the W. Minus junior-to-be A’nnika Saenz, who was upstate with a club team, the Lady Bobcats set to work without a Santa Maria for the first time in ages. With Jenessah set to graduate and Julissa recovering from surgery, Salinas watched as a number of unknowns auditioned for roles in the backcourt.
One thing he knew he would see is the continued prowess of Bri Sanchez, who is shaping up as a real fine player for her senior season. Blocking shots in bunches, making touch catches up high and scoring liberally in the post, Sanchez served notice that if things go as planned, she could easily score 15-to-20 points a game next season, with the usual 12-15 rebounds. Big Bri looked like a college player scrimmaging against high schoolers out there, really.
One-half of the Sister Act will be playing in college come fall, Bri Martinez. While the fast-handed defensive wizard plies her trade for Coastal Bend, Leslie Martinez remains a Lady ‘Cat. She brings a ton of versatility to the fore, with the ability to fight it out in the post and yet the quickness and smarts to bring the ball up and hit the open shot. Martinez the Younger will definitely be a focal point of the attack at times as a senior, and same goes for long-range bomber Daysha Tijerina, who should exhibit more of a will to drive and get to the free-throw line in her junior campaign.
It was also Fantasy Island on Tuesday at the Rec as a number of city greats were sweating it out in senior league competition. On one court it was North ex Vicky Pena running game against Marah Guzman and Liz Olvera of EHS fame, with ex Lady ‘Cat Bianca Casas in the fray as well.
Down the building a bit was George Olvera with Aaron too, playing a men’s league game and breaking in a newbie, Vela star Noah Sekinger. Sekinger, who recently signed to play college hoops at Texas Lutheran, will surely be able to get the most of this June situation, playing alongside two of the best that ever laced them on.
And if he needs any pointers on endurance and excellence, Tuesday opponent Lalo Rios would be a worthy study subject. The former Econ and Vela coach, and of course a Bobcat and Pan Am legend of yore, has still got it, big time, we are happy to report.