A new season dawned for city hoopsters last week, as the girls’ programs got going Wednesday. The boys will begin this week, in preparation for a 2009-10 season that promises to be competitive and interesting.

The North girls and EHS boys have the most returning players as each seeks to keep the playoff-caliber basketball going.

The Lady Cougars went 21-15 and broke through to the playoffs under Coach Jenny Gaytan, and just about the whole crew is back to try for the repeat.

As always, North will be strong out front, with senior Essence Brown and junior Dani Vargas, aided by sophomore wing Vicky Pena. The team lost to Weslaco by nine in bi-district, after an 8-6 mark in district. The other senior on hand is Brandy Garcia, a three-year starter who was the club’s leading scorer and rebounder last year.

Edinburg loses the latest version of the Big Three, as Trish Lopez, Maddy Lopez and Yadi Salinas have graduated. This leaves a pair of stellar defensive kids, Laura Torres and Bianca Casas, as the new junior team leaders, along with senior post Anaka Garcia. Garcia has paid her dues behind the stars and should be ready for a breakout campaign, while Coach Rachel Carmona will integrate a whole lot of new faces into the mix.

The Lady Bobcats were 29-9 in 2008-09, with a win over San Benito in bi-district before a 2-point loss to McAllen High in area.

Econ also says goodbye to a pair of long-time stars in Becky Diaz and Shay Hernandez, and will look for contributions from a strong group of underclassmen. The Lady Jags struggled last year after a couple of playoff trips, going 5-9, 13-21. Vets Lory Martinez and Daniella Gaytan are back to help Coach Kelly Garrett’s unit return to contention.

As for the boys, both Econ and North are stoked about the upcoming season. Coach Lalo Rios has a solid 10-man rotation and says that the Jags should be in the running for the postseason after a 0-14, 5-27 mark last year.

“This is the first time in awhile that we are truly excited about the season,” said Rios, who has some size this year along with some good three-point shooters returning. “We have some kids who have dedicated to basketball year-‘round, so we don’t have to count on football guys coming in late. I think we will be right up there if things go well.”

North’s Rudy Garcia enters his fourth season at the helm minus standout post John Carcano (13 points, nine rebounds a game last year) and steady hands Fernie Salinas and Tom Nowakowski. But he has six kids coming up from the lower levels who will make an immediate contribution.

Point guard Juan Ramirez will lead the team this year as a senior who makes good decisions and is a fiery defensive stopper. Junior Jarred Weems has grown two inches to 6-foot-3 and he may be the wildcard of the league this season; he can stick the three, but Garcia might need some more rebounding help from the talented leaper.

EHS enjoyed a great season behind seniors Chris Flores and Jaime Acuna, running to a 26-8 mark and a three-deep playoff stint. Back to compete for as good a showing is junior point guard Aaron Olvera, one of the most exciting players in the Valley.

Joining Olvera, who averaged 12 points and four assists a game last season, are sharpshooting Phillip De la Rosa, plus football QB Stevie Guerrero and coming contributor Cord Arriola in the backcourt.

Big Marquis Holiday dominated at times during the summer league campaign, and Coach Zeke Cuellar, beginning his second season, will count on the 6-3 post to take care of business inside.

NOTES: In cross country, the District 31-5A meet was all North Saturday in Alamo, as both the girls and boys won the team title. The boys won easily by 57 points over second-place P-SJ-A, as Luis Serrano was first, Joe Morales second and Luis Reyes fourth. Econ’s Carlos Vazquez had a nice race, finishing fifth.

The North girls came home a winner by 22 points over Pharr North with freshman Jenyse Vazquez second behind superstar Gaby Salazar of Pharr North. Beckah Rodriguez finished fourth for EHS, which was third team-wise. Econ’s Leigha Brown ran 10th.