LA FERIA — One could almost imagine Dr. Naismith himself, up on the ladder reaching into the peach basket after every made shot. One can see him nodding his head in approval at the latest, though intermittent, success, scooping the ball out of the hard wooden bucket with a long mesh net and preparing the women for the next center jump at the YWCA.
OK, it wasn’t that old-fashioned, but Econ’s 28-24 win over Mission Saturday did not set any offensive records, except maybe for most methodical match of the year. The victory, in which the Lady Jags came from eight down to win in OT, clinched the championship of the 37th annual Tommie Wiseman Tournament and marked the team’s sixth win in seven starts.
Coming as it does after a woeful 1-10 beginning, the streak (and title) gives the Lady Jags some confidence as District 31-5A comp looms on the horizons after the first of the year.
“It will give us a boost, at least I hope it will,” said Econ coach Kelly Garrett, whose club turned up the defense in the second after the Lady Eagles controlled the tempo in the first. “We are heading into a tough district and right now it’s good for this group to start to learn how to win.”
Mission is the original slowdown unit under long-time coach Rene Garza; if it gets a lead, the stall usually ensues. Saturday the Lady Eagles hit some threes early to grab a 13-10 advantage after one, extended that to 18-12 at the half, but then went dry.
The reason was Econ D, led by tiny guard Cassie Rodriguez and lengthy forward Leigha Brown, both of whom made the All-Tourney team along with hard-working teammate Deissy Sauceda. They helped shut down Mission with more pressure on the ball, after the Lady Jags had more or less sat back on their heels as the Lady Eagles’ slowdown melted away the clock with patient possessions.
Rodriguez had given the team a huge boost at the end of the third with a halfcourt shot that beat the buzzer for three and made it 24-23, Mission. Harassed by Brown’s long-armed attack out front, the Lady Eagles never scored again, going 11 minutes without a point.
Brown has been jostled around pretty fiercely by the Mission girls, but she turned it on down the stretch, much to the joy of her older sister, Morgan, who is visiting home from Lindenwood University and was at the ball game along with three other Lady Jag exes, Lexi Normendez, Roxy Rodriguez, and Becky Diaz.
It was Brown’s show in the OT as she scored the only two baskets, including the clincher, an offensive rebound and stickback on a free-throw miss from Sauceda inside the final minute to make it 28-24. The two hoops in OT were Brown’s only two of the game.
The talented sophomore was the tourney MVP, though Garrett cautioned that she is the poster child for an inexperienced 7-11 team.
“People expect her to come in and always be the star, and she just came from volleyball,” Garrett said. “And Leigha is just a baby still, really, 15 or 16 years old, and she is just now figuring out what her role is. I think she did a great job at the end, after some really tough hits out there.”
NOTES: The Lady Jags came in averaging just 35 points per game, after a series of narrow wins to get to the final. They beat host La Feria by two and Juarez-Lincoln by four before the 4-point win over Mission. Stephanie Escobedo and Monica Gonzalez hit three-pointers against the Lady Eagles while Sauceda grabbed seven rebounds.