Twice in the last quarter, action had to be stopped while the refs toweled up a wet spot on the floor. With a ton of free throws being shot, it seemed as if the Upset Special would never end. But it did finally, with Edinburg North on top of Sharyland by nine at 72-63 Friday night.
Coog Coach Rudy Garcia, the embodiment of patience, pumped his fist in the air at the final buzzer, and exhaled.
“Yes!” he exclaimed, and then went on with the business of shepherding his unlikely but gutsy crew for another step along the way toward a breakthrough season. His kids earned a big one against a formidable foe, and with one game to go before the break, there was great joy in CoogLand.
Yes Sharyland, the team that handed EHS its first loss of the season recently. That Sharyland. The Coogs (8-9) welcomed the Big Red to town and showed them a rude time, dominating the glass, keeping care of the basketball, and breaking the Rattler press with deft passing and sharp teamwork.
It was the kind of performance Garcia has been waiting on for a long time.
“We finally played four quarters and it feels good,” said the coach, who got outstanding efforts from a trio of kids on a night when the team suited up just eight due to injuries. “And we made some shots, too, that’s something we have not been doing. I have been preaching to these kids all year: just play to your potential and we’ll be fine.”
Brandon Davila was certainly fine Friday, putting on a display in the second half; he had all 18 of his points after the break and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. Always a superior physical specimen, the junior leaper was one of the keys to the upset, especially his four-point play with 6:45 to go that gave the Coogs a 10-point lead they held down the stretch. He hit a long one while getting knocked on his can in the corner, and then converted the free throw.
“I had some fouls in the first half and had to sit for awhile,” said Davila, who nailed three of North’s season-best eight three-pointers. “We’ve been working real hard in practice and tonight we did all the things we have been trying to get better at. I think we can be contenders in district if we keep it up.”
Senior guard Robbie Ramirez was another star in the win, scoring 19 points with five treys as the Coogs led early, lost the advantage midway through, and then outplayed Shary in the fourth to take the W.
“Every time you get your opportunity you have to make the most of it,” said Ramirez, who played well in the summer league and is helping the unit overcome injuries to starters Sam Cavazos and Aaron Beltran. “We knew they would come in trying to press us, but we didn’t feel the pressure. We just moved the ball well and it didn’t bother us.”
The third member of the squad who made the difference Friday was freshman Brian Beltran, who has been a very pleasant surprise this season for Garcia. He scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds, making five of seven free throws in the last period as North converted 11 of 17 late to ice the victory.
A smooth and calm customer under pressure, Beltran was hot with the mid-range jumper and did his part out front against a Rattler team that earlier in the week had knocked off an EHS team ranked No. 10 in the state.
Already short-handed, the Coogs got a huge triumph despite the fact that 6-foot-5 post Kerry Williams was in foul trouble the whole game and had just four points. An old-new face, senior Hector Garza, came out of retirement to provide hustle and grit inside; he had decided to concentrate on academics this year but was forced back into action with the rash of injuries. He played well and gave the team a spark with his usual fighting spirit.
In all, it was a meaningful night for the Coogs, who led 23-13 at one point in the second period before the Rattlers rallied with 11 in a row to take a 1-point lead into the intermission. With Davila leaping all over the court and Ramirez knocking down bombs, North came back to take a 48-43 lead after three.
Then it was time to break the press, make free throws, and act like a winning team. This, the Coogs were able to do, and now they have some real confidence going forward.
“We’ve had our problems, but you just have to take what you got,” said Ramirez, when asked if morale has been hurt by the recent stretch of bad luck. “Right now, we may not have that many guys, but we’re all playing hard and we want to take on the best teams. Including Bobcats…we feel we can play with anybody, really.”