Life moves at quantum speeds these days. As soon as you read this, it will be retro headed for nostalgia wrapped in history. So even though the North girls celebrated their Team of the Year award last week, they returned to the basketball court soon after the banquet over in Harlingen, and continued to batter away at summer league competition.
People, District 31-5A is going to be silly this year, just too amazing to deal with. The Lady Cougars are by the grapevine the favorite to win it, with EHS and Harlingen right on their heels. This is the truly the Group of Death when one considers that perennial queen Harlingen South, pummeled by graduation losses, is going to have to hustle to keep up with the rest.
Tuesday North took to the court against Donna, and hounded the Bravettes unmercifully, winning 54-23. On display were all the trusty weapons, Vianey Salinas swatting shots like flies inside, Dani Vargas running the show out front with her 100 mph motor and lightning quickness, and Vicky Pena seeming to toy with the foe using her tremendous court awareness and skills.
All to the good, but the reason the Lady Coogs might be the champ this season is depth; despite the loss of Brandi Garcia and Essence Brown, key cogs in the machine for four years, there are a number of kids ready to step in and do their thing.
Foremost among the new faces is sophomore-to-be Larissa Arriola, an aggressive guard whose quickness rivals that of Vargas. She can stick the jumper and on defense never gives an inch. In a stretch midway through the first half, as North went from a 15-10 lead to a 17-point halftime bulge, Arriola had a hand in six straight Donna turnovers, pressuring the ball and heading the other way in transition. Expect her to be in the rotation for sure. She can play.
Also impressive was junior-to-be Annie Badillo, who has fine instincts, a solid touch from mid-range, and the knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Providing help inside was coming senior Dora Ureste, a veteran banger who appears to have improved her wheels. She will give Salinas a breather on the blocks along with Chelsea Luna, as the squad prepares to battle with the variety of bigs the district has to offer.
Finally, new face Chante Brown, no relation to the departed Essence. She is smooth and athletic and gets to the open spot in a hurry.
These new girls will help the team this season, no doubt about it. North destroyed Donna with the sort of all-out blitzes that South has made its calling card. The Lady Hawks would get a walkover against a tiny, slow San Isidro team after the Lady Coogs finished up, and the Orange and Green watched the demolition with barely concealed anxiety.
Fresh off 27 wins and a trip to the regional tournament, North has a great chance to begin the next campaign ranked number one in the Valley. From there, it’s off to the races for what promises to be the most hard-fought girls’ hoops season in many 31-5A years, maybe ever.
NOTES: North has competed well in the local 7-on-7 league so far, with some promising receiving options showing they want to replace the graduated seniors. Keep an eye on inside receiver Joel Cuellar, who runs tight routes, has sure hands, and scored a couple of touchdowns in Tuesday’s action.
With the skill group gone from 2009, newcomer Michael Williams has a chance to contribute. He is a well built junior-to-be who is causing some buzz right now. The transfer from out of state showed nice hands Tuesday and will certainly have a shot at meaningful minutes in the fall, perhaps as a feature back.