Hoop”stars” honored

District awards announced for basketball

With the conclusion of the basketball season for the teams of the Big 7 last month, the respective districts that the teams are a part of have announced their top players and coaches for the 2019-2020 season.

The successful seasons of both the girls and boys teams from Sharyland Pioneer did not go unrecognized. Both teams went through their respective District 31-5A schedules with perfect 14-0 records and coaches Nicole Villarreal and Rene Gonzalez were each named District Coach of the Year in their respective divisions by their peers.

Both coaches earned their awards by handling the high expectations each of their teams previous years of success had put in place and by putting together teams that neither expected to have when school opened last fall.

Coach Villarreal’s Lady Diamondbacks came into this season as the defending district champions with an experienced squad that included 2018-2019 District MVP Audry Hornaday. When Hornaday was lost for the season in early September, Villarreal didn’t fret.

“The biggest thing was to make sure they (the players) were OK,” said Villarreal. “There was a lot of uncertainty because they definitely looked to her.”

Villarreal reminded her players that they had played most of their summer league games without Audry. “I told them, “It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. You all can do this.” I just had to reinforce the fact that we were not just a (one person) team. We were a team full of talent and it was about them believing in themselves; using the tools that they had been given.”

After a tough non-district schedule the Lady Diamondbacks swept their way through all of the regular season, winning 15 games in a row at one point on their way to the district title as well as a first round playoff victory.

When asked what she would most remember about the season, Villarreal said it was the kids. “They pulled together to make it happen. What could have been disastrous; they took on the challenges. It was everybody coming together.”

Coach Gonzalez’s Diamondbacks had adjustments to deal with as well. The team started the regular season waiting for three expected starters to return from the football team to help them defend their 2018-2019 district title. There was also the arrival of Derek Luna. The senior guard, a member of Duncanville’s 2019 6A state championship team, transferred into Pioneer at the start of the school year.

Gonzalez said that he didn’t have to change much with Luna’s arrival. “He (Luna) already knew the guys from playing with them growing up. With all of the experience we had coming back and plus Derek, I was just letting them play and letting them mesh with each other.”

Much like Pioneer’s girls team the boys also went on quite a run of their own, at one point winning 17 straight games before falling in the round of 16 in the playoffs.

Gonzalez, like Villarreal, talked about his players when asked what he would remember most about the season.

“What they did. How they meshed and worked as a team. I told them “You guys know what to do” . . . they knew what was expected.”

The coaches of District 31-5A recognized Luna as the league’s MVP for his regular season efforts. The recent Texas A&M-Kingsville commit put on quite a show in the Diamondbacks postseason run as well. In the team’s four playoff games Luna scored over 20 points in each, including a monster 40 point effort in the teams’ final game of the season.

“He was a great leader,” said Gonzalez. “He was like another coach on the court. He knew exactly what we (the coaches) wanted and he ran it to perfection. His leadership was unbelievable.”

The successes of the Pioneer squads garnered a number of other awards for their players as well.

For the Lady Diamondbacks, Alexia Hernandez was the district’s Defensive Player of the Year as well as a member of the All-district defensive team. Jordan Bravo was named first team All-district and also earned a spot on the All-district defensive team. Natalie Reyes was the district’s Sixth Man of the Year and Adelaida Arroyo, Carly Hornaday and Laura Ramirez were named to the All-district second team.

In addition to Luna’s MVP award, the district Defensive Player of the Year went to the Diamondbacks’ Lavar Lindo and Darik Briseno was co-Sixth Man of the Year. Luke Padilla earned a spot on the first team and the defensive team.

Miguel Angel Gonzalez was named to the first team and Ethan Lee and Eddie Marburger were named to the second team.

The District 31-5A girl’s MVP also came from a Big 7 team. Ronnie Cantu, a senior guard from Mission Veterans earned the award for her efforts in getting the Lady Patriots into the postseason as the third place team from the district.

As one of only two players with extensive playing experience returning for the Lady Patriots as the season started a lot was expected from Cantu, and she delivered.

Coach Rafael Cantu Jr. spoke about her role on the team. “She was our point guard and had ball handling responsibilities, but she had to shoulder a little bit more of the scoring too. She did the things she needed to do to allow us to have the season that we had.” Besides qualifying for the post season, the Lady Patriots won their first round playoff game as well.

Cantu, who recently committed to continuing her playing career at St. Edwards University in Austin, was not just a one dimensional player either. She was also named to the district’s All-defensive team along with providing leadership as one of the team’s captains.

“It was her constant presence and providing that stability for us,” said Cantu Jr.

The rest of the award winners for the District 31-5A girls’ team from the teams of the Big 7 were as follows:
Kaylee Flores (Mission Veterans), Marissa Jones (Sharyland) and Lucy Ruiz (La Joya Palmview) were named to the first team.

Second team honors went to Mission Veterans players Leilah De Leon and Kelly Garcia as well as Karla Garza and Daylah Vega (Sharyland), and Daniela Flores (La Joya Palmview).

On the boy’s side in District 31-5A, La Joya Palmview’s Irving Gamez was the Offensive Player of the Year as well as a member of the defensive team. Jacob Arenas from Mission Veterans was the district Newcomer of the Year.
Other first teamers named included AJ Gonzaque (Mission Veterans), Gerson Ramos ( La Joya Palmview) and Nazier Moore (Sharyland).

Mission Veteran’s Carlos Ramirez was named to the All-district second team as well as the defensive team. Fellow Patriots Jacob Marquez and Ryan Acevedo joined him on the second team along with Joshua Raya and Freddy Flores (La Joya Palmview) and Alex Alvarez (Sharyland).

Honorees in the girl’s division of District 30-6A included Melady Renteria of La Joya (first team) and two second teamers ( Viviana Rios – La Joya, Jiselle Mendoza – Mission).

District 30-6A boys who were honored included La Joya’s Cesar Villarreal (first team, defensive team) and Mission High’s Eddie Rivero (second team).

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