Not a bad way to start off district. Not a bad way at all.
If you happened to miss it, Juarez-Lincoln took down the defending champs on Tuesday, 50-41.
“Good way to start district,” said Head Coach Eric Montalvo of his team’s win over the Weslaco East Wildcats, who only lost one district game all last year.
The win is hopefully one of many. The Huskies are already 6-4 on the year, which is a vast improvement from last year when they barely won a handful of games and finished near last place in District 32-4A.
The difference for this year is the experience and the off-season work put in by the team. Coach Montalvo says his team sacrificed money and time to hit the weights and participate in spring and summer tournaments in order to up their game and get them ready for a new season of Juarez-Lincoln basketball. The slogan for this year is “We Rise.”
The difference is noticeable and the rising is getting higher and higher. Montalvo says just last year the team struggled to run a half court set. Now, the team does it with ease, passing the ball around the perimeter fast and crisp, waiting for the defense to collapse so the open shot will be theirs to take.
And make no mistake about it, this team isn't afraid to shoot.
“We got to take the open shots,” says the third year head coach.
One of those unafraid to toss the ball at the rim is Azahel Alvarez. The senior is prolific beyond the arc and a team leader. On Tuesday, #5 put 22 points on the visitors and then iced the game with clutch free throws.
Alvarez's play means a lot to the team, but he isn't alone. Joining him on the floor are Aaron Acuna, Juan Andrade, Rene Guerrero and Jesus Salinas. Both Salinas and Guerrero started last year alongside Alvarez.
If the shots aren't falling, however, intense defense will come into play.
“If we make [our shots], good. If we don't, then we get back on defense.”
It may have been the defense that won the game on Tuesday. In fact, after losing the opening tip, the defense came out fast and hard and immediately punched the Wildcats in the mouth by getting steals through cutting off the passing lanes and forcing the opposition to become frustrated and sloppy.
The strike first mentality is what Montalvo hopes to see all year long, knowing his team isn't suddenly guaranteed a playoff spot just because they took down East. While beating the defending champs is noteworthy and one of the better wins in school history, the district schedule is long and full of hopeful teams ready to compete for the district crown. Veterans Memorial, Roma and Hidalgo all figure to be there until the end.
Come Tuesday, the uphill battle arrives. After the red and silver take the weekend off, they will travel to Veterans Memorial in their first district away game. The Vets lost on Tuesday, so a win will be huge for the Huskies, giving them a two game lead over a fellow playoff contender.
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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.