Dec. 15, 2020

By Greg Selber

On one hand it was sort of puzzling, and on the other, the Lady Bears just came to play, straight-up. The result of this high-octane, excellent matchup was a 62-55 P-SJ-A win against Vela in town Tuesday, on a night when the visitor had slightly more to give for four quarters, while the Lady Sabes did not quite match the effort and intensity they’d showed against rival EHS last week.

Coach Lottie Zarate, attempting to pinpoint how her five came out on the losing end, after leading for most of the first half, fixated on effort.

“We didn’t really show the heart and hustle we had against Bobcats, maybe in stretches we did,” said Zarate, whose girls also dealt with early foul trouble against a P-SJ-A unit that ran the court for 32 minutes, dominated the boards, and made six of six from the free throw line down the stretch. “Looked like the Bears wanted it a little more than we did. It’s not like a light switch you turn on and turn off; a team has to play with the same intensity every night, and tonight we didn’t have it for the whole game.”

A pretty honest assessment all in all, but Zarate also saw her kids come up with several stretches of great basketball, and once they fell behind in the second half, the Lady Sabes didn’t quit. They had their chances to do so, really, as the Lady Bears, paced by superb junior post Kaylah Hernandez (26 points) and deceptive little junior guard Heaven Estrada (19), threatened to end it early, getting up by as many as nine points.

However, hard-working senior Dylan Cantu (nine points, six boards) cut the lead to four heading into the fourth with four points at its close of the third, and in the stretch run, classmate Andrea Molina (team-high 18 points) and junior Lauren Vega (16) combined for 13 points as the Lady Sabes valiantly tried to stem the tide.

“We worked on stopping the fast break, stopping ball, being smart, but we did get into foul trouble and that hurt us,” Zarate said. “But we need to be able to play every team with the energy we showed against the Bobcats, like we usually do against sister schools. I thought at times we were a little passive, and that did not help tonight.”


In their previous outing, the spirited Lady Sabes led Edinburg High in the fourth before fading, and as Tuesday began seemed ready to duplicate that promising showing. Junior Aneyda Chapa in particular was effective, showing she has improved her offensive game by putting the ball on the deck and driving for an early layup. Vela, now 2-2 in 31-6A, led 12-9 late in the first until the surprising Lady Bears, undefeated overall ay 10-0, started to assert themselves with passing prowess and the individual skill of the burly yet quick Hernandez, who can flat go, bro. Still, Molina knocked in one of her three bombs to start the second and give Vela the lead again, and in that period, Vega hit two shots and whipped a bullet pass inside to a cutting Fey Vazquez.

The Lady Bears led by a point at the break and then took advantage of some missed shots at one end to jet out and score at the other, building an 8-point lead until Cantu rallied her squad with a bucket and two free throws, cutting the deficit to 38-34 heading into the final eight minutes.

With the Lady Bears up five, Vega nailed a three-ball but then Hernandez grabbed an offensive rebound (P-SJ-A had a plus-13 rebound edge) and scored on a putback. Thus, every time the Lady Sabes were poised to get back on top, the visitor produced a slick move or a hustle play, and the Lady Bears also broke the Vela press and trap using the pass and seldom the dribble, always a good sign. Or bad, depending on who one roots for.

Fact is, it was a breakneck style of clash and both teams illustrated that they are ripe for the playoff chase this season. But it was P-SJ-A who made the plays down the stretch as Chapa eventually fouled out and Cantu and Molina were forced to compete with four each, something that is hard to do: staying on the court and contributing when one is a whistle away from being disqualified is a tricky wicket indeed.

One final late three from Molina cut the margin to three at 58-55 but from there the enemy scored the last markers to cap an entertaining evening of hoops. Vela had the edge in threes (5 to 3) but the Lady Bears ruled the glass and converted 17 of 22 free throws, Vela not far behind at 14 of 22. Depth has been a bit of an issue so far and Tuesday, the starters scored all but two of the points for the Blue and Black. Zarate’s crew, averaging a healthy 57.3 ppg through four league tries, is away at Juarez-Lincoln Friday.

NOTES: Edinburg faced down a road test from Pharr North Tuesday, winning 58-51 as freshman Janai Coleman exploded for 22 points and 20 rebounds, one of the best double-double performances in school history. The Lady Bobcats (5-0, 8-3) are next in action Dec. 22 at Edinburg North. Econ (1-2) had the bye Tuesday and gets back at it Friday versus 1-2 Mission at home.

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