WESLACO — The Big Three II is gone, and now it’s audition time for the rest of the Lady Bobcats. As the latest girls’ hoops season gets rolling, EHS has said goodbye to Yadi Salinas, Trish Lopez, and Maddy Lopez, otherwise known as 75 percent of the offense a year ago. But there are still plenty of holdovers from the 2008-09 playoff unit seeking to take the next step on the ladder.
The somewhat new-look Lady ‘Cats went over to Weslaco Tuesday and defeated a depleted Pantherette unit, looking excellent at times and then struggling at other junctures. In the 50-45 victory EHS (3-1) led by 15 at one stage before Weslaco (5-5) battled back to within three in the fourth. A pair of three-point plays inside by senior Anaka Garcia turned the tide for good as the team rebounded from a loss to Laredo Alexander in its previous outing.
And Garcia is definitely at the top of the list of returnees wanting to step into the shoes left by the Big Three II, who followed the originals, Marah Guzman, Liz Olvera, and Gina Ferrer, who have been graduated for three years now, my how time flies. Garcia had eight of her 10 points in the telltale fourth, after getting 14 of 16 in the second half versus Alexander.
Combined with rugged Emma Lopez (nine points with some aggressive post moves), Garcia should be able to man the middle, but EHS is deepest out front. Coach Rachel Carmona’s unit has a bunch of kids on the perimeter that can jump to the defensive task and then score at the other end, and perhaps the best is Laura Torres. The hard-nosed junior contested every ball Tuesday, as usual, and though she committed six turnovers, was a sparkplug with a 12-point night.
She teams with fellow junior Bianca Casas, who handled the ball well against Weslaco and contributed seven points. Joining that experienced pair are senior Victoria Ponce and newcomer Stephanie Nunez, and both of those girls can stick the open jumper and help on D. Also expected to make an impact is Bianca Ramos, the North transfer whose promise has only been exceeded by her tendency to get hurt. A fine dribbler who can penetrate or nail the jumper, Ramos was solid Tuesday but did re-injure a knee in the last minute of play; her status is in the air.
Carmona is back from a 30-day suspension handed down by the UIL after an alleged illegal practice session in preseason, and the team was ably coached by assistant J.D. Salinas in the interim. The Lady ‘Cats showed potential in their fourth outing, but could not put away a Pantherette group minus star Kimberly Armstrong, out for the year with a torn ACL.
After falling behind 4-0, EHS got it together with eight straight and assumed a 16-9 lead after one thanks to a three from Nunez and a pair of plays that augur well for the season ahead. Torres drove right baseline for a tough leaner and then converted a layup off a steal from Ramos, who is a nasty defender along with LT and Casas.
Weslaco got strong inside play from senior Alex Rocha (19 points, 11 rebounds) to rebound, and it was just 21-19, visitor, at the half. The Lady ‘Cats started missing easy shots and turning it over, allowing the outmanned Pantherettes to climb back in.
Carmona turned up the heat with three-quarter-court pressure to begin the third, and EHS responded with a fine period, after being held to five markers in the second. Torres had six points in the run with Lopez asserting herself down low for a pair of buckets. When Casas notched a field goal it was 39-25, and it ended 39-29 going to the last 8-minute stretch.
Third-period highlights: Casas scoring on a feed from Ramos after Lopez’ defensive board and crisp outlet; Ramos’ clever tip pass off a look from Nunez, resulting in a Lopez lay’; and a nice pullup J from Torres in traffic.
But again, Weslaco rallied, led by drives from Kim Marquez (18 points) and continued diligence in the lane from Rocha. EHS fouled amply in the period and the home side was in the bonus way too early, leading to 8 of 9 by Weslaco from the line down the stretch.
It was just a 3-point game at 46-43 after a 14-7 Weslaco run with 2:22 left. But then Casas broke down the D off the dribble to find Garcia, who scored and was fouled. She made the free throw and EHS closed it out.
NOTES: After easy wins against Laredo Cigarroa and Donna, the Lady ‘Cats had dropped a 48-44 decision to Alexander heading into Tuesday. Torres, who had 35 points in the first two wins (16 in the first half against Ciggy en route to 21, and then 12 in the first period versus the Bravettes) regained the touch after having just three against Alexander. Nunez now has eight treys, and at least one in all four contests.
Tuesday was the true definition of a fast start for North, as the Lady Cougars mauled their way to a 26-0 lead at the end of one period against visiting Brownsville Lopez. The club won going away 70-23, to rise to 4-5 for the season, helped by a season-best 24 points from point guard Dani Vargas.
The Lady ‘Cats followed the Weslaco win up with a 14-point win at McAllen Memorial Saturday, while the boys’ teams in the city prepared for the annual Craig Smith Tournament which was slated to start Thursday.