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For the third straight year, Laredo United and Sharyland will face each other in bi-district.
For the third straight year, Sharyland is hoping to not exit the playoffs at the hands of the Longhorns. Certainly the Rattler seniors are not ready to go down that path.
Led by senior Fred Ramos, the Rattlers (16-14, 8-6) have eight seniors wanting to erase the past history and start anew. Brendan Quinn, Trent Jones, Fernando Martinez, Justin Escamilla, Albert Villegas, Matt Ramirez and Ricardo Garces are all ready to contribute if needs be.
Of course, it is Team Captain Ramos who will be counted on the most.
The senior has a smooth style of play that brings a calmness to the team. Possessing a solid dribble, Ramos can easily drive on almost anyone and has a soft touch when he gets around the rim.
“I don't believe there is a guy that we have met this year that can stop Fred,” says Rattler Head Coach David Keith. “He is that good, but he is also a very giving person.”
The ability to also dish the ball is what makes Ramos solid at the point. Whether it is finding Quino Pistokache or any of his fellow seniors, the captain is sure to get everyone involved. Another key aspect is the guard taking the role of captain seriously. Between plays, Ramos can be seen instructing players on the technicalities of the game plan to be sure everyone is on the right page.
Having everyone focused will be critical in Tuesday's match-up with United. The Longhorns are not quite as good as they were last year when they reached the regional semifinals, but they will present a formidable challenge to Keith's squad.
For Keith, however, the coach feels his squad is ready to break out.
“[My guys] are a special group of kids. They love each other like brothers and they work hard. There is a lot in store left for them. I'm hoping the best part of them is yet to come. I think it is.”
This season has shown the group has a lot in them, for sure. Back in December the Rattlers’ potential was on display when they took down Valley powerhouse Edinburg. The program was at its height.
Then came Jan. 11. Holding a commanding fourth quarter lead against McAllen Memorial, the Rattlers saw their free throws begin to fall short and the Mustangs pushed back behind home crowd momentum. In the end, Keith's team lost by three. Keith and the team were devastated.
Since then, the goal has been to work themselves back to their potential, to forget the Memorial game and focus on making the playoffs. It wasn't easy, but when the Rattlers took down La Joya a week ago, the playoff spot was clinched.
“[The boys] are realizing what they did [by making the playoffs] was big after what they had been through,” says Keith.
Tuesday will be the test to see if indeed the team is ready to break out. If they are, you can be sure Fred Ramos will be leading the way.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.