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PASSING THE TEST: LOREDO, LADY JAGS SPREAD BALL AROUND IN EXCELLENT HOME TRIUMPH OVER NORTH

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January 11, 2022

By Greg Selber

Click here for select game photos

On the last sequence of the half Tuesday, Adia de los Reyes fought to keep it alive in the corner, gaining possession and whipping the ball over to Dana Serna. Serna made a quick feed to a cutting Jasmine Loredo, who completed the move with a nimble layup in traffic. Thus, Econ finished the half comfortably ahead of North, 26-10, and would eventually roar to a 52-25 home victory to end a three-game 31-6A losing streak.

Loredo, the fulcrum with 21 points and 15 rebounds, had slapped her hands together briskly as the ball settled into the net. As in, “Oh yeah!” This teamwork business was paying off, big time.

The Lady Jags’ only senior, Loredo came onto the scene four years ago as a precocious freshman with a world of ability, part of an outstanding entering class. And she’s been busy since then, scoring more than 800 points, grabbing 500-plus rebounds, and making 240 steals.

And yet, she almost didn’t take the court for her swan song in orange.

“I was going to focus on track only this season, but I had to come back to basketball,” said the athletic Loredo, who helped her squad to a very important win Tuesday with one of her best games ever. “I missed basketball, it’s my passion, so I came back.”

The key to the success Tuesday was something the Lady Jags have been working on in practice: ball and player movement, passing without delay, and putting pressure on other teams.

“We have a thing in practice, no one can be a ball-hogger,” explained Loredo, who used her strength and quickness to get to the free throw line 12 times against North and scored 20 points or more for the third time in 2021-22. “I think there were times in the past when I might have been a bit of a ball-hogger, but now I am passing the ball more, I’m getting better at doing it. It’s going well.”

And the Lady Jags lived their mantra Tuesday, playing unselfish basketball, scooting to the open spot, and letting the flow of the game come. Serna finished with 18 points, connecting on five three-pointers. As Econ built a huge lead midway through the night, the defense was stifling North to a standstill; by the end of three quarters, it was 43-15, with both Loredo and Serna having put in more points at that stage than the combined Lady Cougar total.

The victory gives the team momentum heading into a showdown against EHS Friday, and means that with a second-half run, the Lady Jags (2-6 in league play as the second half starts) still have a chance to vie for a playoff spot. And they believe it can happen.

“Coach told us before the season started that she thought we had a chance to be a pretty good team, and we’re trying to be that,” Loredo said. “I think we can still make it, actually, we just have to get on a roll. This will help.”

Coach Mari Campos enjoyed watching her girls churn to a resounding result. She noted that after a narrow 3-point loss to Pharr North in their last outing, the Lady Jags were starting to get the picture.

“Move it around, create mismatches, and find openings in transition,” she said after the home win. “Drive and dish, be unselfish, I have seen the girls start to do that more and more. I told them that from now on, we have to play like our backs are to the wall, come out swinging every game. Tonight we played real team ball, and we have to do it. Here at Econ we don’t have the tradition or the all-stars like some schools, so we have to do all the little things right. They are buying into it, and now we have to split with teams that beat us the first time, maybe steal one along the way, and hopefully we can get in.”

ONE-SIDED AFFAIR

The first time these two met in district play, at North back on Dec. 7 for the opener, Econ rolled out to a double-digit lead before the Lady Coogs came clawing back to take a taut 59-57 decision. This time, after leading 5-2 early courtesy of a Jayli Rivera bomb, North soon went flat, fell far behind, and did not manage a comeback. With post Britzia Mancilla flashing to the middle and passing to the wings, the Lady Jags were sharp in running their sets, and made their shots at a decent rate. Loredo put in a hoop for an 8-5 lead but North’s Briseidy Lerma canned a trey near the end of the period to tie it at 8.

From there, the home girls smashed their way to an 18-2 second quarter with Serna tallying three times from beyond the arc and the club getting hoops from Jaylene Corona, Bianca Coronado, and Mancilla to balance the scoring. North got just one deuce in the telltale period, from Elizabeth Garza, and with Rivera in early foul trouble, the Lady Jags pounced.

Their defense forced 10 turnovers in the quarter, and though Sam Aguilar and Raven Dykes hit the boards with determination (they combined for 19 rebounds Tuesday), North could not buy a basket, subsequently getting outscored 17-5 in the third before a fair showing in the fourth, falling to 1-8, 7-16 overall. It’s been a tough debut season for Coach Marah Guzman and the Lady Coogs, but they never quit hustling, as Valerie Zepeda dropped in six points down the stretch, leading her squad to a 10-9 edge over the last eight minutes.

In nine league games, the Lady Coogs have scored less than 40 seven times; they’ve also lost some reasonably close ball games, to P-SJ-A by 9 and Mission by 7. They suffered a 1-point defeat at the hands of Juarez-Lincoln in their last action and have now dropped eight in a row since besting Econ in the opener.

Lady Jag Corona continued her vital hard work in relative obscurity; she doesn’t light the scoreboard up but will do all the dirty deeds that make the machine go, setting screens, getting rebounds, and passing the ball alertly. Late in the first period Tuesday she boxed out on the glass and kept a North kid from getting possession. Later she made a great block, using her length to deny a Lady Coog shooter.

In the third, as Econ pulled further away, Loredo scored off an inbounds feed from Serna, making a free throw to complete the and-one. Then the Lady Jags got into the press to force an errant North pass. The Lady Coogs got a steal and hoop from sophomore Kaylah Lozano but Serna could not miss Tuesday, and she flipped in another sweet 3. Loredo also sank a bomb during the torrid period and even when the speedy Rivera made a steal for North, Loredo swooped in to stop her from advancing.

One could tell it was Econ’s night when Coronado lost the ball on the way up but somehow it just arched into the net, surely the most interesting basket the junior point guard will ever register. In the end, the Lady Jags were sharp, accurate, and direct, Loredo storming to the goal time after time, fighting for rebounds, defending, and passing the basketball with precision when the situation called for it.

As Campos has preached to her group from day one: when you pass the ball, it will often come back to you at the right time. By her own estimation, Loredo – always supremely, physically gifted – is a convert to that philosophy, and seems to be having ample fun playing the game she loves.

Tuesday was part of an ongoing revelation, as the Orange girls now look forward to building on their win total and trying to jump back into the hunt for the postseason. It is doable. They make up a postponed home game against La Joya Saturday at 2, following Friday’s road test at EHS. It looks like Vela, EHS, and P-SJ-A are locks to get in, but after that, it will be real scramble to the fourth spot.

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