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GIRLS’ HOOPS PLAYOFF PREVIEWS

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Feb. 10, 2021

by Greg Selber

EHS-LOS FRESNOS, THURSDAY AT EHS

The Lady Bobcats begin the annual Second Season trek with an overall record of 19-4, after a 15-1 count in 31-6A that copped a title but was a tiny bit spoiled by a loss in the finale to P-SJ-A, by four. Their bi-district opponent is Los Fresnos, which lost to Harlingen South at the wire to fall to fourth seed from 32-6A. Los Fresnos is 15-8 for the season including 6-6 in a pesky league with Weslaco and Harlingen, among others. 

The Lady Falcons are not a very good shooting outfit, and only average 41.5 ppg, though they do have some physical gifts (42.5 rebounds per game). Their scoring woes, illustrated by a paltry 19-point effort against South earlier in the year, and offensive outputs in the 20s against Weslaco and Harlingen (twice) have to be worrisome.

The Lady Bobcats, on the other hand, pumped in 65.2 ppg this season and connected on 170 three-pointers; Los Fresnos had made just 35. This means that defense and rebounding will have to carry the visitor in the upset bid; this team has some size and grit with five different kids getting at least four rebounds a game, and the Lady Falcons have 338 steals and 491 offensive rebounds as a team so far. They have a rotation with only two seniors, by the way, though one is solid point guard Gisemani Garcia.

EHS has faced Los Fresnos three times in recent years, winning each time starting in 2017-18 (43-28 in bi-district), and continuing with regular season successes in 2018-19 (52-35 at Los Fresnos) and last season (60-40).

Coach J.D. Salinas has strong seniors A’nnika Saenz (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.3 apg) and Daysha Tijerina (15.4 ppg, 52 threes, 77 percent at the line) to go with the best freshman class in program history. Freshman Jenai Coleman (averages a double-double) and classmate Emily Carranco will have their hands full inside with an aggressive Los Fresnos crew.

EHS has been one of the Valley’s greatest programs through time and is in the midst of a three-year run that has netted six postseason victories, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2018-19. The last time the Lady ‘Cats did not make the Dance was 2013-14.

The winner of this bi-district tilt will face off against the victor in the Laredo United South-SA Taft encounter, EHS having had plenty of experience with the former: prior to the upset against the Lady Bears, the last Lady ‘Cat defeat had come Nov. 28 by four against United South.

VELA-HARLINGEN, FRIDAY AT VELA

The Harlingen team that Vela welcomes to town Friday is just about the best in the Valley, with a 20-2 overall record, a spotless 12-0 mark in District 32-6A, and a victory at EHS earlier in the campaign. The Lady Cards suffered losses against Laredo Alexander in overtime and Laredo United by eight, both defeats coming way back in November. 

Coach Ashley Moncivias has a largely underclass group with just two seniors among the top eight in the rotation. It has made 115 three-point shots but only for 28 percent and is only decent at the free-throw line (59 percent). The Lady Cards do score in bunches, however and average 63.9 for the season with a balanced attack that gets scoring inside and out. Junior Avery Hinojosa (13.7 ppg) leads the team on offense while sophomore Rosa Zapata runs the point well, with 65 assists and 70 steals to her credit.

It will be a tough assignment for the Lady SaberCats against a Harlingen program that has won 79 percent of its games the past 10 seasons, including six seasons of 30 wins or more. Last season the Lady Cards lost in area to United South, the team that then knocked out EHS a step before the Sweet 16, and in 2018-19 went to the third round before getting pummeled by the Lady Bobcats. 

Vela has opposed Harlingen three times in the past, losing in 2012-13, 2014-15, and 2019-20. That last match was a barnburner, a 57-54 decision at Vela, where the Lady Sabes, as the No. 4 seed, will try and pull off the stunner. 

This is the ninth playoff trip in a row for Coach Lottie Zarate and her 11-7 team, which finished 10-6 in 31-6A. The latest edition set a school record with a scoring average of 58.5 ppg as the guard play has been terrific and the inside game improving by the week. Seniors Dylan Cantu (10.5 ppg) and Andrea Molina (15.2, 77 percent from the line) team with junior Lauren Vega, the versatile and athletic sparkplug who paces the club in assists and steals, scoring 12.8 with 3.2 rebounds.

Vela had won a postseason game in four of its eight seasons heading into 2020-21 and naysayers might keep in mind the fact that the school’s best playoff run came in 2015-16, when the Lady Sabes came into the mix with a middling 16-18 overall mark but then captured two wins before expiring versus Victoria East.

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