MISSION — They’re coming into district on a roll. Or rather, they should be. Only time and the league wars will tell if the Lady Bobcats are going to take the yin with the yang after last week’s Jostens Classic, when they won three straight before losing in the semi-finals, 55-54 on a last-second three-pointer.
Coach Rachel Carmona had a psyche job on her hands now after her girls blew a 16-point, second-half lead Wednesday against Harlingen, a team they’d pounded twice already this year. How EHS responded to this disheartening loss might determine how they fare in 31-5A; it’s that simple.
The answer came later in the day, as the group rebounded for a 52-48 victory over Los Fresnos in the third-place game, withstanding a late three-point barrage from the Lady Falcons to rise to 15-5 for the season. Still, they let a 15-point lead almost get away in the fourth.
It is best for them to focus on the positives, which included fine all-around tourneys from Laura Torres, Bianca Casas and Anaka Garcia.
“I was proud of the way we came back after that loss,” said Carmona, who notched career win No. 400 in the Los Fresnos game. “We had to learn from the things we did wrong in the previous game, and I think we did that. It was a shocking loss, no doubt about it.”
The Lady ‘Cats dominated the Harlingen game for three periods, with super defense and nice ball movement, showing that as they enter the league race they can play with anyone. They’re now 3-0 after a win over P-SJ-A Saturday.
The negatives will have to be addressed, most prominently a failure to take care of the ball in the fourth period. The other bad thing from the tournament was an ankle injury to Casas inside the final two minutes. The unit should have closed out the Lady Cards (12-7) but allowed way too many second shots (Harlingen had 20 offensive rebounds and held an astounding 46-21 board edge for the day) and turned it over six times in their last eight possessions, shooting just 4 of 9 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
It’s tough to beat a team three times in a row, and to their credit, Coach Nora Zamarripa’s group never quit hustling. Soph Bianka Martinez nailed a wide-open bomb for the game-winner with seven seconds remaining, after Edinburg had looked unbeatable most of the way through Wednesday.
To start, senior Victoria Ponce was ready for the Jostens semi-final, scoring 10 of her 15 points in the first period as EHS built a 16-6 advantage. With Torres (13 points, six steals) keying the usual rugged defensive effort, Carmona’s club was sailing along.
Garcia, who can handle the ball out front or come inside to use her practiced post game, had 14 against Harlingen, and made several nice plays on the perimeter.
It was 30-18 at the half, with the Lady Cards having trouble setting up against the fierce defensive charge. But by the end of three, Harlingen had begun to find the range behind junior Ashley Adams (19 points, 14 after the break) and had cut the margin to six. Edinburg had quickly surged to a 16-point advantage at 36-20 behind a bucket and steal from Torres and a score inside from Emma Lopez after a Torres block started the fast break.
But from there Edinburg went into the tank, with sluggish ballhandling and too much standing around in the paint. Still, Garcia broke the press and found Torres inside for a layup to make it an 8-point game early in the fourth. But Harlingen kept coming, narrowing the margin little by little and knotting it at 48 with a trey from Adams.
Lopez made two huge free throws and a steal from Stephanie Nunez led to a Torres bucket for a 52-48 lead. But three miscues in a row let the Lady Cards back in. When Lopez missed two charity tosses with 17 seconds left, Harlingen ran it up down 2, with Adams finding Martinez for the arching shot that did the deed. Ponce had it 20 feet from the goal in the closing seconds and chose to pass the ball down low with the clock running down. But she might have been better swerved launching the jumper, as EHS could not get the shot off inside before the buzzer sounded.
So it’s back to business for the Lady Bobcats, who have been strong all season long, and are off to a 3-0 start in league play. All they have to do is assimilate the good stuff from the recent tourney, file away the downside material into the learning category, and get with the program for the long haul.
NOTES: EHS had beaten the Lady Cards 64-45 in the BISD Tourney and 49-29 in December 31-5A action.
Freshman Mercelita Michellin continues to improve for EHS. She had six points and four tough boards in limited duty against Harlingen, and should be able to give the team some quality minutes in district play.
Torres averaged 13.9 in non-district, with four 20-point games. Garcia hit for 11.9 with 13 double-figures outings, while Ponce averaged 7.2 and Casas 7.9. EHS converted 53 3-pointers in 17 non-league games, losing to Laredo Alexander, Alice, El Campo, Hidalgo, and Harlingen.