The Mission Veterans Patriots and Lady Patriots basketball teams swept the Sharyland Rattlers and Lady Rattlers Tuesday in District 31-5A action. The boys’ game was played at Sharyland High at 3 pm while the girls’ game was played at Mission Veterans at 5:30. By not having the boys and girls play their games simultaneously, as is usually the case on Tuesday and Friday evening games, fans of both schools had the opportunity of attending both games, which many did.
As it turned out, the Mission Veterans fans had more to cheer about than the Sharyland fans did, but with both games being highly competitive, everyone in attendance was treated to some of the best high school basketball action in the Rio Grande Valley.
Mission Veterans Patriots at Sharyland Rattlers
The Mission Veterans Patriots defeated the Sharyland Rattlers by a score of 52-47 in District 31-5A action Tuesday. The Patriots jumped out to an early lead and while the Rattlers fought back to close the gap to within two points late in the game, the Patriots never relinquished their lead en-route to their second district victory of the season.
Tuesday’s win was also Patriots’ head coach, Romeo de la Garza Jr’s, 401st of his head coaching career. Having reached the 400 career wins mark against the other Sharyland team, the Pioneer Diamondbacks, earlier this season, de la Garza took a few moments immediately after Tuesday’s game to share what reaching this milestone means to him.
“It’s a tribute to the kids I’ve had in my program,” de la Garza said. “I started my head coaching career at Edinburg North and I got a few wins there. Sixteen years ago I returned home to Mission and started the boys’ basketball program here at Veterans Memorial. We’ve had a lot of tremendous players that have bought into our program so 401 wins is a tribute to all of them.”
“As coaches, our job is to prepare and guide the student athletes but ultimately they are the ones that have to go out there and take care of business,” added de la Garza. “That’s one thing I’m very thankful for; the young men that go out there night-in and night-out and sell out for you by executing the game plan. That makes things a lot easier for you as a coach.”
De la Garza went on to acknowledge his coaching staff and the part his assistants have played in making the 401 wins possible.
“Having a tremendous support group in my coaching staff and the tremendous continuity I’ve had with my assistants has been great,” de la Garza said. “My varsity assistant, Jeff Espino, has been with me 15 years, my junior varsity coach, Joe Espino, has been with me for all 16 years and then I have my freshman coach, Isaac Lozano, that has been with me 14 years. Having that kind of continuity and having coaches that have bought into what my philosophy is and implementing it in the sub-varsity teams has helped me out a lot.”
The Patriots’ top scorer in Tuesday’s game was de la Garza’s son, Elijah de la Garza. The freshman guard scored a total of 16 points by sinking two three-pointers and making all 10 of the free throws he attempted. The Rattlers’ top scorer was junior point guard Mauro Fernandez who accounted for 28 of the Rattlers’ 47 total points in the game.
With the win, the Patriots improved to 2-3 in District 31-5A play while the Rattlers dropped to 0-6 with the loss.
Sharyland Lady Rattlers at Mission Veterans Lady Patriots
The Mission Veterans Lady Patriots improved to 6-1 in District 31-5A play with their 39-26 win over the 3-4 Sharyland Lady Rattlers Tuesday. Despite getting off to an uncharacteristically slow start, the Lady Patriots found their rhythm in the second quarter to extend their two point lead, 6-4, at the end of the first quarter to an eight point lead, 18-10, at halftime. The Lady Patriots then extended their lead even further to lead by a score of 30-17 at the end of the third quarter and maintained that 13-point lead throughout the fourth quarter to win by a final score of 39-26.
High scorer for the Lady Patriots was sophomore Kaylee Flores with 15 points on five field goals, two free throws and one three-pointer. High scorer for the Lady Rattlers was senior guard Ania Pelayo with nine points on two field goals and five free throws.
Coming off a 2016-2017 season in which they went 10-6 in district play and missed out on the playoffs, the Lady Patriots are off to a much better start this year. When asked what he believes accounts for this turnaround, Lady Patriots’ head coach Rafael Cantu Jr. said, “The girls are a little more in tune with each other. They’re gelling better with more flow to what we’re doing. That’s the whole thing, team chemistry is everything.”
With the three Laredo teams taking first, second and third place in the district last year, the fact that the Lady Patriots have already defeated two of those teams, Martin and Cigarroa, this year along with the fact that they fell just one point short in their loss to Laredo Nixon, should be a pretty good indicator of the fact that the 2017-2018 Lady Patriots’ team is one of the better teams Coach Cantu has ever had the privilege of coaching.
“In the areas of shooting and ball handling, this is definitely one of our best teams,” Cantu said. “We’re working on becoming a little more well-rounded and while our zone defense has been really good for us, we do have to continue to improve there.“
Mission Veterans’ junior guard Noe Cantu goes in for a layup as Sharyland junior point guard Mauro Fernandez defends. during the first quarter of the Patriots’ 52-47 District 31-5A victory over the Rattlers Tuesday afternoon. Progress Times photo by Luciano Guerra