If Friday’s hoops tilt featuring EHS and North were a mule, they would have shot the danged thing at halftime. It was one of the ugliest games in the history of the sport, but nonetheless was a vital fulcrum in the ongoing quest to determine the standings in District 31-5A.

One would argue that the legion of missed shots in EHS’s 37-31 clunker of a win were caused mainly by tough defense, and there is some merit to that suggestion. Both sides dug in and pounded away, with the larger Lady Bobcats using their bulk to try and subdue the smaller, quicker Lady Cougars.

Too, the rivalry between the schools is so intense that sometimes when they get together, there are more than enough nerves to go around.

Whatever. Despite the aesthetic zero, the match was hardfought, with Edinburg squeezing out a little more poise down the stretch to win it, rising to 6-1 as the first half of league play ended.

Though they came out tight and tentative, a hangover perhaps from the depressing blowout loss to Harlingen South three days back, Coach Rachel Carmona’s club got a banner day from senior Yadi Salinas. She scored 20 points, the ninth time she’s hit at least that many this year, and showed that a senior will work on her game in midseason by hitting four 15-foot jump shots.

Carmona, whose group is now 23-5 overall, said that Salinas has been practicing her outside shot more these days and it showed.

And it’s a good thing that Salinas was hot, because fellow post Trish Lopez got into quick foul trouble and sat for long stretches, ending with a season-low five points, just the fourth time she’s been held under double figures all season.

Still, Lopez came up big at the end, with some huge rebounds and two free throws inside the final minute to clinch it. The Lady ‘Cats were a horrendous 5 for 21 at the line, but after North went ice cold from the floor in the second half, Carmona’s crew was able to inch ahead and take the W.

“I can’t even talk,” said a weary and raspy Carmona afterward. “I think we did OK overall, and now the first half is over and we’re 6-1.”

RECAP

North came in at 4-2 in district, looking to use its outside shooting prowess to counter the size disadvantage. The Lady Coogs had made four three-pointers a night through 27 games, but shot dreadfully most of the night Friday.

They got 10 points from Brandy Garcia and some spirited play from senior post Brittany “Cheer” Coronado (12 rebounds), and led 15-10 at one point in a sluggish first half. But they failed to score double figs in any quarter, and converted just two of 15 3-point tries all told.

“If we had made some shots we could have won it,” said Coach Jenny Gaytan, who saw her team fall to 16-12 overall with a huge match versus Harlingen on the horizon Tuesday at home. “We just went flat from the floor, we couldn’t make anything, and it cost us.”

North was hot out of the gate, with Coronado chunking one in at the buzzer for a 9-4 lead after one. With EHS doing too much standing around on defense and throwing up wild shots at the other end, the Lady Coogs were in good shape, as they took care of the basketball and patiently worked for shots on offense.

Salinas started poorly, missing a point-blank layup early on, but she got it going in the second with eight points, including two bombs from the top of the key. Point guard Maddy Lopez missed three straight jumpers at one stage but did a good job settling her team down as the game wore on.

“Maddy controlled the tempo tonight,” said Carmona. “Gradually, we started to do the things we needed to, and it helped that North went into a shooting slump.”

It was tied at 16 after two, and EHS was the quint that came out harder in the third. On a play that exemplified the increased effort level, Bianca Casas blocked a shot from Arlene Garza and saved the ball inbounds off the North girl’s face, gaining possession.

Later, Salinas made a great catch of a looping fastbreak pass for a hoop, and Anaka Garcia made two key inside moves for baskets as the Lady ‘Cats tried to pull away.

But when Essence Brown flew downcourt on the break to convert a layup against two defenders, it was tied again at 24 with 1:51 left in the third. Salinas hit three more shots in the fourth, and North missed three shots inside the final two minutes to end its chances of the upset.

North outrebounded EHS by three, but its failure to knock down the outside shot was the difference in this one.

NOTES: The EHS boys remained unbeaten in league play with a 73-66 win against North Saturday, thanks to a career-high 36 points from senior Jaime Acuna.