In a season filled with challenges, such as the loss of head coach David Keith due to health issues, the Sharyland Rattlers basketball team has risen to the occasion putting together a 14-2 record and qualifying for the state playoffs.
With Keith recovering from brain surgery at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston earlier this week, the Rene Gonzalez led Rattlers closed out their district schedule with a 66-44 victory over the La Joya Coyotes Tuesday evening and are preparing for their upcoming bi-district playoff game against the Laredo United Longhorns Monday.
While having to deal with such adversity might cause other teams to lose their focus and struggle to maintain a high level of play, Rattlers players such as guard Jesse Pistokache have have found inspiration and a spiritual awakening in the way their coach has dealt with his all-too-serious health concerns.
“If anything, what Coach Keith is going through has brought us closer to God,” said Pistokache. “We pray for him after every practice and a lot of us feel closer to, and have a stronger relationship with him as a result of what he’s dealing with. It’s sad to say, but without Coach Keith going through what he’s going through we wouldn’t be as spiritual as we are right now. He has inspired our team as well as many people across the Valley to seek God.”
On the court, Pistokache, a key player for the Rattlers, has been sidelined since January 28 with a sprained ankle. But other players have come through in his absence, making this team an even stronger contender for the playoffs.
“I think that we’ve had at least one different player each game that has stepped up when needed,” said Pistokache. “Against the Coyotes tonight we had several players that contributed in a big way. However, in our recent game against Edinburg Vela, for example, my teammate Yavin Flores had 22 points. It’s a big confidence booster for our team when we know that every game somebody is going to step up when needed and get the job done.”
With their season on the line with each upcoming playoff game, the Rattlers will be needing Pistokache, who led the district in scoring his freshman year, on the court and not on the bench. And that is exactly where Pistokache expects to be.
“I’ve been out close to two weeks with a sprain in my Achilles,” explained Pistokache. “But I’m going to be cleared to play Friday or Saturday. That means that I’ll be able to play in our first playoff game either Monday or Tuesday.”
With 11 seniors on the roster, this is the year that most of the Rattlers players have been working towards and are now expecting to make a run deep into the playoffs.
“We’ve all been playing together since we were freshmen,” said Sharyland senior point guard Korby von Rosenberg, “We know that this is our last year to do something, so we want to go as far as we possibly can in the playoffs and hopefully get to state.”
Having lost to Laredo Alexander in the first round of the playoffs last year, Rosenberg believes that this year’s version of the Rattlers is peaking at just the right time.
“With Jesse coming back and everyone being as healthy as possible, we’re all going to be ready,” added Rosenberg. “With so many seniors on this team we’re going to be more mature about it and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get the win.”