Every night, Zeke Cuellar tells his EHS Bobcats to forget the past and don’t worry about the future; he always says that THIS game is the biggest one of the year.
“We have to keep their focus,” said the coach whose team rose to 2-0 in 31-5A and 14-6 overall with a 54-40 win on the road at Econ Tuesday. “During the holidays it’s hard to keep track of the kids, they go off on vacation and often they just drop off the face of the earth. We have to remember that every time we play, teams are going to make that their most important game, so we need to do the same.”
They were a bit banged up heading into the Jag contest, with Steve Guerrero nursing a hand injury suffered in the Calallen Tournament over the break, and Cord Arriola still hampered somewhat by his own hand hurt.
But those two guys came up big for EHS, which simply decimated the Jags (0-2, 9-9) in the third period, going on a big run that turned a 3-point halftime lead into a 16-point margin at the end of three.
During the surge, Arriola hit one of the four treys he would get during the surge, while Guerrero, playing at the 5 with Joe Fuentes in foul trouble and Marquis Holiday slowly working his way back into the rotation, controlled things well inside. Guerrero, who has scored in double figures in all but three of the 15 games he’s played since joining the team from football, collected 13 rebounds and scored 11 points, while Arriola finished with 12 points and four steals.
But the big hero was Aaron Olvera, the junior guard who came off a career-high 36-point effort against Calallen in the tourney. He started slowly with a 1-for-6 output, but was invincible in the third, racing for 14 of his game-high 22 points, bombing in three threes in the process.
Early on, the Jags had employed the box-and-one defensive strategy to try and contain the elusive Olvera, who averages over 21 points a night. It worked well as Econ led 15-12 after an 8-0 run, with Ricky Cantu (seven boards) asserting himself inside and J.J. Velasquez hitting from outside.
Coach Lalo Rios had noted before the game that after the Jags had blown a 10-point lead to lose the league opener at North Jan. 2, he had to sit down with his team and discuss matters.
“I think we sort of quit in the second half against North and the guys were not feeling very good about it,” said Rios, who worked against his alma mater Tuesday. “We had a meeting Saturday and it took awhile, but afterward I think we were OK with what happened, and what we were going to do to get past it. I don’t care what happens, we need to keep fighting to the end of every game. It’s a confidence and pride thing.”
The Jags showed plenty of both in the beginning against the three-time defending league champ, building that 3-point lead. But EHS went on its own 8-0 run after that, getting back out in front 20-15 with Olvera tallying twice, Guerrero once, and Phillip de la Rosa adding two free throws. De la Rosa has missed much of the season with another EHS hand injury, but he was solid Tuesday with several steals; he did miss three layups though as he progresses back into hoop form.
The EHS D contained Econ leading scorer John Barrientes fairly well, holding him to 10 points and 10 rebounds. But at the half it was just 27-22, ‘Cats, setting the stage for the fireworks to come.
EHS would score 18 in a row at one point, with Olvera firing in threes and driving past the Jags with ease to score at the rim. The Bobcats extended to 48-25 before falling flat, Econ enjoying a 15-9 garbage-time edge the rest of the way.
Cuellar expressed satisfaction at the win for the most part.
“They got into that box-and-one early, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it,” he commented. “Aaron started slow, but he got it going after awhile, I told him he had to be patient and let the game come to him. He has to get his other teammates involved when the defense is all over him.”
The coach praised Guerrero for his efforts, saying that wherever the staff puts the 6-foot junior, he produces.
“He can play any position really, and that makes him valuable to us,” he said. “He did a great job today inside, he really hit the boards despite that hand injury. Plus, he came up to set some screens for Aaron that helped him get going. And Aaron is Aaron, it doesn’t take much for him to take off and take over a game.”
EHS GIRLS WIN BY 7
It started like a rotten egg for both teams, but turned into a peach of a game late, with the Lady Bobcats again experiencing their distressing recent trend toward a second-half letdown, but having enough gas in the tank to outplay Econ.
EHS (4-0 in District 31-5A and 18-6 overall) got out to a quick lead on the Lady Jags (1-3, 11-13) but had to scramble to withstand a comeback in the latter stages, winning 48-41 to remain perfect in league play.
Senior Anaka Garcia led the way with 13 points and 12 boards, and also made some key plays on defense and on the assist as EHS battled the pesky Lady Jags. She was joined by teammate Laura Torres, who outdistanced early foul trouble to score 10 and get six boards.
For Econ, which managed just three points in a very shoddy first quarter and 15 by halftime, senior Mariah Galvan was amazing, with a career-high 24 points, 17 in the second half. She brought down nine rebounds and outscored the rest of her Econ mates by seven, flying to the basket against two and three defenders or stepping back to nail a pair of three-point shots.
The Lady Jags trailed 25-15 at the half as their free-throw woes continued; they made just 5 of 14 in the half and looked beyond sluggish on offense. Galvan caught fire in the third with nine points and at one stage it was 29-26, EHS after Daniella Gaitan made a two for the home side. But Torres and Garcia sank free throws and Garcia got a bucket on a nice pass from Bianca Casas (eight points, two threes) to make it a 10-point game again heading into the fourth.
With Galvan netting eight, the Lady Jags hung around, getting to within five when Galvan scored off a Val Perez pass; Perez was tough on D in the second half as the Lady Jags, energized by the presence of both a pep band and the cheer squad at a Tuesday doubleheader, clawed back in.
But Victoria Ponce tossed in two free throws and Garcia fed Torres off the delay game to salt the win away.
NOTES: Both EHS teams scored wins Saturday, and looked ahead to a huge night Tuesday at Harlingen South, to be followed by round one of the annual two-fer grudge fight against North, at home Friday starting at 6. Econ’s girls’ and boys’ units lost their tries Saturday to Harlingen.