Pioneer looks to compete in district despite ‘underdog’ moniker

Unlike their female counterpart, the inaugural Sharyland Pioneer boys basketball program was bolstered by four seniors, two with previous varsity experience, for its first season this year that has allowed the Diamondbacks to be competitive from the outset.

With a 12-10 overall record and a 0-2 mark in District 31-5A play after Tuesday’s 50-42 loss to Mission Veterans Memorial, the Diamondbacks are still in good position to compete for a playoff spot in their first year of existence.

20150106-Boys-Basketball-VMHS-v-Pioneer- dy-038“We’re hoping to compete against everybody else,” said Pioneer first-year head coach René González. “It’s a tough district and there’s some good teams. We’re going to try and make the playoffs.”

To help get the Diamondbacks to the postseason, Pioneer’s four seniors will play a big role.

Leading the charge are Zack Ramón and Dalton Curtis along with Bobby Welch and Alvin Carr. All four played for González last season at Sharyland when he took over for head coach David Keith, who became ill. González was Keith’s assistant for seven years before taking the head coaching position at Pioneer this season.

“We believe a lot of people consider us an underdog or don’t even consider us at all to win these games,” Ramón said. “We’ve lost a couple of tight ones that could’ve gone either way. We’ve had them at times, it’s just some misfortunes down the stretch. We’re a young team and we’re still learning how to finish games, but I believe that we can still come back and shock some people. It’s not over yet. We’ve dropped the first two, but this team is strong-willed and we’re not going to go down easy.”

Despite the recent loss to Mission Veterans, the Diamondbacks showed resilience in outscoring the Patriots 15-13 in their failed comeback bid during the final quarter of play.

In the district opener on Jan. 2, Pioneer fell short against Edinburg Vela 76-70.

“They all play good defense and they complement each other,” González said. “That’s one thing I’ve preached about, looking for each other and helping each other on the court. We’re trying to be a family-oriented team, brothers taking care of brothers. They hang out with each other off the court so team unity is the main thing.”

Pioneer’s unity has also helped them come together as a team and begin to create a style of play unique to the Diamondbacks, although they still have a way to go.

“The team’s style is a work in progress,” González said. “I’m still trying to get these guys to buy into our philosophy which is to read defenses and make plays. The game has evolved to more guard-oriented offenses and trying to get to the paint, and make others around you better.”

However, since the beginning of the season, the Diamondbacks are a changed team.

“We’ve improved drastically,” Ramón said. “We not only have come together chemistry-wise, but skill-wise too. We’ve come a long way.”

Pioneer’s road in district won’t get any smoother. The Diamondbacks host district and sister-school rival Sharyland on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The game will not only pit former players against each other, but it will match up apprentice against mentor when González and Keith reunite on opposite sides of the court.

“I’m looking forward to it and I think coach Keith is too,” González said. “I was his assistant for seven years and we’re great friends off the court. Of course, he’s a competitor like I am and we’ll see what happens on Friday.”

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