Greg Selber

McALLEN — They know that the volleyball team was able to counteract graduation losses and still manage a postseason trip, so the Lady Jags have been highly competitive so far in hoops.

Despite losing three all-star starters from last year’s club, Econ is off to a solid start with a bunch of newcomers surrounding returning vet Shayvon Hernandez. And if the supporting cast can come through like it did in volleyball, Coach Kelly Garrett’s squad should be right in the District 31-5A running for the third time in a row.

“We’’re a lot smaller this year so we have to be a lot more patient with our offense,” said the third-year coach after her girls defeated Laredo United South in second-round action at the Border Bash here Thursday night. “We are getting there, little by little.”The Lady Jags have proven themselves adept at patience in Garrett’s slowdown set, which emphasizes ball movement and cutters out of the corners, with Hernandez using her dazzling first step to penetrate to the basket and find the holes.

They had scored five victories in nine games heading into the gigantic Bash, and despite a loss to vaunted host McAllen High in the opener, the Orange was ready to roll for the loser’s bracket test against South.

Facing the Lady Panthers without leading scorer Becky Diaz (15 ppg) who was unable to attend the night game, Econ dug in and gutted one out, 49-43, getting some promising performances from a series of newcomers along with a wonderful first half from Hernandez. The 5-foot-6 senior sat out four games recently with a knee injury, but showed she is 100 percent by scoring eight points, grabbing six boards, and passing for five assists.

She did most of her damage in the first half, when the Lady Jags rallied from an early 12-10 deficit after one to assume command on the boards, where they eventually carved out a 47-23 edge for the game.

Hernandez drove for a basket in traffic, found junior volleyball Lory Martinez (10 points, game high for Econ) and then made a steal. The Lady Jags got the lead at 15-14 on a three-point play inside from 5-10 Danielle Gaitan, who is replacing the Bigs from last year in Morgan Brown and Amenda Garcia. She has long arms and can be a factor on defense for stretches.

Speaking of defense, the Lady Jags were all over the place in the half, making steals off fullcourt pressure once they moved into the lead. Kayla Silva came on to knock down a perfect three-point set shot while Shermee Tigeer, half-sister of Hernandez, was also active on the blocks, especially on the offensive glass where Econ pounded the smaller Lady Panthers.

They outscored South 15-6 in the second to take a 25-18 halftime advantage and then pushed it to 40-19 late in the third. Veteran Crystal Montano, another of the posts who is bent in filling the graduation holes, enjoyed a productive quarter with grit and hustle on both ends, and Martinez, as she has done the past two years in volleyball, showed that she can play bigger and stronger than her petite frame might indicate.

Econ hit a wall in the fourth, standing around too much on defense as the quick-footed Lady Panthers rallied with a 9-0 rush. The Laredo squad eventually narrowed the gap to just two at 40-38, but hustling Mireya Galvan, who has hit double figures three times so far this season, tossed in a key stickback on the glass.

Martinez then nailed the big blow, a three-ball from downtown, and Econ closed it out by returning to the offensive on defense, with Galvan and Montano double-teaming the ball to force a turnover. Galvan is a comer to watch, and she collected an even dozen rebounds on the night, with Tigeer and Silva bringing down seven apiece.

NOTES: Econ won three of five games at the Bash, while North was 2-3. Edinburg (9-2) won three of four games at the Lady Coyote Invitational in Alice, good for fourth place. Lady Bobcat Yadi Salinas was named to the All-Tourney team.