If ever a gal were born to be a point guard, it’s Dani Vargas. The North senior is unselfish to a fault, consistently critical of her own play while praising that of others, and always on the lookout for improvement of team chemistry. Perhaps Vargas comes by that personality through genetics, because after three-plus seasons of playing for aunt and Lady Coogs coach Jenny Garcia, she naturally exudes Coachspeak.
All the four-year starter’s finer points were on display Tuesday as she nailed 7 three-pointers in the first half en route to a season-high 23 points in the team’s cakewalk of a 76-25 romp at home over Brownsville Pace. In the third period, Vargas made no fewer than five crisp no-look passes, three of which led to easy North buckets with the other two being too good to handle for a couple of newcomers to the Lady Coog roster.
True to her selfless image, Vargas was quick to self-direct after North rushed to 5-0 for the young season. Rather than complaining about the assists lost (she had eight for the night), the wiry guard noted two other boo-boos. Her own.
“I missed two layups,” she moaned, shaking her sweaty head. “I make those all the time in practice…I was like, “What?’”
Leave it to the consummate team player to focus on personal miscues. That is the kind of gravitas one expects from someone who grew up watching Garcia play at UTPA and then coach in her hometown.
As for the unit performance against Pace, admittedly an also-ran in District 32-5A at 1-7 for the season, Vargas opined that the Lady Coogs, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last year for the first time in school history, are clicking on all cylinders once again.
“We have a lot more depth this season, with several new girls that we are not afraid to throw in there and say, ‘Let’s go,’” she noted. “We’re quicker this season and we have such good team chemistry, especially me and Vicky.”
Vicky Pena, the junior superstar who tossed in 28 points and had eight boards after a slow start Tuesday, is perhaps the better known of the North standouts. A tremendous one-on-one scorer with an amazing handle and superior skills, she averages 21 points per game.
“We are at the point where she says she just reads me eyes and knows when the passes are coming,” Vargas said of Pena, who has produced 74 points over the last three games.
While in the past the senior point might have tried too hard to force looks, these days she is making superb feeds in the flow of the offense and Garcia, a former point guard herself, can see the maturity in her team leader, who along with possessing awesome range on the jumper is perhaps the best backcourt defender in the Valley.
“She’s learning, getting better every year,” said the coach, in her fourth season at the helm. “She’s improved her confidence season by season. She is a real team leader out there.”
Vargas said that instead of trying to “jam it in there” every play, she has become adept at knowing when to pull off her patented look-away masterpiece.
“I just feel it, it’s “Now!” and it happens,” she explained. “There’s a time when it works and time when you have to pull it back out and wait.”
She laughed when detailing how youngsters Mariah Garcia and Tracy Shumpert, part of the program’s future who are just figuring out the varsity drill, have adapted to her propensity to whip the ball through defenders into their sometimes waiting hands.
“Tracy is like, ‘Omigod,’ she now is making sure to always keep an eye out for me in practice and the games,” she giggled. “That ball is going to get there in a hurry. Those girls give us more options, we can switch out more often, get some rest, and we know they are going to work hard and contribute.”
Everyone contributed Tuesday as North ran out to a 25-0 lead before Pace threw in a layup with one second left in the first period. With Vargas (20 points in the first half) and promising sophomore Larissa Arriola leading the defensive charge out front, the Lady Coogs blew out to a 12-0 lead after little more than a minute with a pair of bombs from Vargas setting the tone.
At one stage, the Viqueens were 0 for 2 from the floor with two airballs and nine turnovers. They could not even get the ball inbounds half the time, much less try to advance past midcourt; it was a total demolition job from the opening tip.
Vargas, who has hit 14 treys in five games, added that Pena is at the fore of the program’s success.
“She is playing a lot of forward, and she is way too quick for most forwards,” she smiled. “And man, she can really get to the basket and score!”
NOTES: North’s depth is truly formidable in 2010-11, with hard-working Dora Ureste playing better than ever inside, and lanky post Vianey Salinas, though slowed by illness, about to explode and duplicate a junior season in which she came on late to provide the missing link inside.
Against Pace, the Lady Coogs held a 20-rebound edge with a number of new kids churning well on the blocks and athletic Desiree Dominguez providing some solid play at both ends of the floor.
The team hit a definite slow spurt in the Border Bash Tournament over the weekend, losing four times in three days of action to fall to 6-4. EHS meanwhile is 11-1 and looked forward to the beginning of 31-5A action Tuesday at home against a 1-loss Harlingen squad.