It wasn't that they did or not get 100 Monday against La Feria (they did not). It's the fact that the Jags are coming close to putting the perfect game together. And when they do, Coach Lalo Rios says, they might be hard to beat.
Econ welcomed the Lions to town for an odd-day contest, in preparation for attendance at the La Feria C.E. Vail Classic later in the week. They gave the 3A Lions a lesson in defense and fast-break basketball, churning relentlessly to a 98-55 victory. It was the Jags' 11th win in 13 tries so far, and one of their most impressive performances.
"Night and day from last season, you can see that," said Rios, who got 29 points from J.J. Velasquez, a season-high 18 from Ricky Cantu, and great contributions from just about everyone up and down the bench. "We don't care that we didn't get 100, it's just that they know how hard you have to work to get there, or close."
Rios has a senior ball club this season, kids that have been together on the varsity for three years. He also has more depth than in the past, meaning the Jags can play their relentless style, running up and down, and get a breather when they need it.
"We go way deeper than we used to and that helps a lot," said Rios, who is less than four months from becoming a father for the first time. "We have some quality off the bench now, there isn't that much of a drop-off when the second unit goes in."
Athletic Luis Rosillo is part of that solid contingent of subs, and Monday he was on fire early, nailing a couple of three-pointers as the Jags got off fast, racing to a season-best 30 points in the first quarter. John Barrientos showed his all-around game with seven points in the period and his usual sharp passing from the high post. Econ led 14-12 before going on a 16-4 run to close the quarter. From there, it was a blowout.
The Lions worked hard but had trouble against the press, with Christian Zuniga and Jesus Gonzalez playing tight defense out front and in the enemy backcourt. The Jags had 55 by the half with Sam Ornelas and Robert Brown coming on to add tough play inside. Cantu broke free for 10 in the third and Velasquez, the team's leading scorer so far this year, got six.
"Tonight we had the battery running the whole game and we were relentless," Rios said. "We still have yet to put it all together but this game got us closer to our goal. We played a lot of kids and they all did positive things. Basically, we are getting set to make a run in district."
This group made the Dance as sophomore and then slipped last year, falling into a slump for most of the league slate. This season, the attitude is terrific and the Jags dominated the offseason leagues, winning eight tournaments. Right now, they have to be considered the favorite to cop the 31-5A crown, though stiff competition awaits them on a number of fronts.
ACTION AT THE VAIL
It didn't take long for the Jags to hit the century mark, as they rushed to the finals of the C.E. Vail Tourney with three wins. They whipped Progreso 105-47 and then worked over Mercedes by 20, leading to an 82-55 win over P-SJ-A Memorial in the semis Saturday.
The 105- and 98-point outbursts bested the previous season high, 82 against Lyford, which the Orange matched against PM; the Jags got 78 against Brownsville Lopez and La Joya, and 77 against Mission and are averaging nearly 70 through 16 games. The defense allows just 47 per night so far, and the two losses were to Palmview by eight and Laredo Alexander by five.
Rosillo, who continues to be a major factor on offense and defense, hit a career-best 20 against Memorial, including the last 11 of the first half on three threes and a fastbreak layup.