If there’s one word that can be used to describe the Veterans Memorial Lady Patriots basketball program, its consistency; consistency in its coaching staff, consistency in winning and consistency in qualifying for the playoffs.
As the only head coach the Lady Patriots have ever had, Rafael Cantu, Jr. has played an integral part in the program’s consistent success over the past 13 years. Success which manifested itself most recently last year with their District 31-5A second place finish and bi-district championship.
“We finished in second place behind Edinburg Vela last year with a 9-3 record,” explained Cantu. “We defeated Brownsville Pace in bi-district by a score of 42-32 but lost to Victoria East in the Area round by a score of 57-54.”
Their 2014/2015 playoff appearance was the eleventh in a row for Veterans Memorial. As a matter of fact, the Lady Patriots have qualified for post-season play in all but their first two years of existence. That is consistency!
While past success is no guarantee of continued success in the future, in the Lady Patriots’ case it is a pretty good indicator of the fact that more likely than not they will be making it twelve years in a row come the post season this year. However with the way their district rivals have improved over the years, if the Lady Patriots are going to continue their playoff run they will need their returning starters to lead the way.
“Rosa Silva and Ashley Smith were they nucleus of our team last year, along with our other two returning starters Darian Ibarra and Andrea de la Garza,” Cantu said. “They’ve got to be our leaders that come through and pull games out when they get a little tight.”
While the other six 31-5A teams opened their district schedule Tuesday, the Lady Patriots had a bye making tonight’s game at Sharyland their district opener. When asked if he thinks his team is ready for district, Cantu said, “We have to be ready. Sharyland is a tough team. I think we’re still a little bit away from being the team we will become eventually but we’re getting there. Our game against La Joya last Friday was in a way a preview of what we’ll be going up against when we play Sharyland because they have great size and they’re aggressive just like Sharyland.”
In that game against the Lady Coyotes, the Lady Patriots took an early lead and trailed only once en-route to a 50-41 win to improve their non-district record to 13-9.
As for which newcomers he expects to have the most impact this year, Cantu said, “Lyndsey Garza (junior forward) who was one of our reserves last year has come in and done a good job for us. Krista Perez (senior post) has given us some really good minutes as well. Jocelyn Rios (junior forward) is coming off our junior varsity team and Jazmin Saldana (junior guard) played quite a bit against La Joya and has done a good job as well.”
Along with four seniors and six juniors, there is one sophomore and two freshmen on the Lady Patriots squad. They are Gabriella Gallardo (sophomore guard), Jackie Howell (freshman forward) and Makenzie Gerlach (freshman guard).
“Makenzie is hurt right now but Jackie gave us some good minutes against the Lady Coyotes,” Cantu said. “We’re missing Gabby Gallardo, who is one of our starters, but she slipped up academically so we’re waiting for her to come back soon.”