It has become a summer ritual, with city hoops rooters asking, “How’r the Bobcats this year?” and the Edinburg ballers tapping out the answer starting in the June summer league.

Some folks like to ask that question because they are priming the pump, figuring that sooner or later the program will run dry and quit winning district titles. So why not help it along a little?

But if Monday night is any sign of what is to come, the Super Sophs of 2008-09 are going to be hard to deal with once their junior year arrives in August. Pharr North, always a bitter league rival, came to town Monday, and left after absorbing a whipping to the tune of 74-53. Every time the hustling Raiders started to compete, the Bobcats had the answer, with the same sort of frenetic defense and deadly three-point shooting that has won them the past three 31-5A crowns.

All six of the kids who suited up for the ‘Cats are heading into the 11th grade, led by slick lead guard Phillip de la Rosa, who continues to carry the family banner high. With the most big-game experience of the young guns, he set the tone on defense early on, along with Steve Guerrero, the rangy sharpshooter who is also a fine perimeter passer. Edinburg led 11-2 out of the box as Guerrero stole one and scored on a drive.

One is used to the excellent guard play from the Red and Blue, but this season the ‘Cats might just have their first dominant big man since David Guerrero three years back. He’s Marquise Holiday, a 6-foot-3 greyhound who had some high moments last year as a green soph. Monday he committed six turnovers and two illegal screens, but more than made up for that with 22 points, nine rebounds, and five emphatic blocks.

EHS had led 20-10 in the first before North made a run to close to within six at the end of the period. But Holiday swatted one with feeling, and Guerrero came down and knocked down a four-point play. The ‘Cats also got some fine play from newcomers Joey Zamora and Jon Gonzalez in the half; the former is an undersized forward who reminds some of Jaime Acuna as he plays bigger than his stature, while the latter is a real burner with strong legs and a lightning first step.

The Raiders were hanging around at 27-24 before EHS ran off 11 in a row to take control, with Cord Arriola making two perfect feeds for hoops and then getting a pass from Holiday to score. The team played without a couple of notables, including point guard Aaron Olvera, but the assembled group did it all right for 40 minutes.

It was 40-26 at the half and Guerrero hit a bomb to start the third. Zamora swooped in for a flying lefty tip-in and Holiday muscled up inside for another easy lay. North didn’t quit, climbing to within 10 at 56-46, but Holiday tallied down low off a super no-look pass from de la Rosa, who gathered in a long rebound in the key and without hesitating flipped it deftly to the big man underneath.

So it may be tough for the ‘Cats this year, having lost stars Chris Flores and Acuna. But they have lots of talent on the wings and the promising Holiday on the blocks; he can run the court and as he learns to control the basketball and pass it back out when nothing’s there, he could end up making an enormous difference to the team’s fortunes in the fall.

Guerrero scored 14 on three of the team’s six threes, while Zamora finished with 13 and Gonzalez 10.