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Road kill

The reigning District 31 6A men’s basketball champion La Joya Coyotes defeated the Sharyland Rattlers 75-60 Tuesday night at Sharyland High School to notch their fourth win of the season and second consecutive win following their 56-point victory over Juarez Lincoln last Friday. The momentum from the win streak comes at a crucial point in the Coyote’s non-district season, as they prepare to face Edinburg’s Harvest Christian Academy (11-1) today in a neutral site tournament.

“It’s always great to get a win no matter who you play. Sharyland’s always been a program with high-level teams. They’re gonna get after it, but it just gets us better moving forward towards the playoffs. Our goal is to win a district title. We’ve been talking about it since last year, in the offseason and during the pre-season. We still need a lot of work. We just have to keep being consistent in everything we do,” La Joya head coach Eric Montalvo said after Tuesday’s win.

The Coyotes’ 22-23 season ended with a regular season banner and playoff disappointment. A first-round exit thanks to a 3-point loss to Brownsville Hanna ended the Coyote’s best season since their 20-21 district championship campaign. This year’s squad is relying on new contributors, but team chemistry grows with every game that passes.

“It’s a new team, so we are trying to figure things out. We’re just trying to get things ready for district. That’s big on our minds. We won a district championship last year, and we’re trying to run that back… I’m most proud of how the team executed and played together. That’s my highlight today,” junior point guard Daniel Trevino said.

The Coyotes mauled the Rattlers early to establish a 12-point lead early in the first quarter of action. Trevino attacked the aggressive trapping Sharyland zone with high ball screens and misdirection, which created open shots for Owen Benoit, Leo Hinojosa, and center Leo Villarreal. Villarreal’s versatility in transition and half-court powered the Coyote’s first-quarter offense as he scored 9 of their 19 total points, eventually finishing the game with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Leo Hinojosa’s perimeter defense and offensive spacing created even more opportunities for the Coyote offense in the first half, allowing them to extend their first-half lead to 19.

“I just wanted to bring defense. Defense is what brings offense. Coach always preaches that. We get offensive looks off of defensive stops,” guard Leo Hinojosa said.

The Coyotes controlled the second half but struggled with Sharyland’s backcourt athleticism. Smothering defense from guards JP Boone, Romario De La Garza, and Diego Lara forced the Coyotes into 19 total turnovers. Boone, the Rattler’s leading scorer, scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half thanks to his defensive tenacity. However, the absence of guard Androniko Suelto undermined the Rattler’s defensive efforts because of their inability to score quickly and efficiently in half-court sets.

Despite the Rattlers’ intensified effort, the Coyotes never relented and clung to victory thanks to a renewed 4th quarter focus that helped them withstand a Sharyland 3-point avalanche.

“Turnovers and mistakes are going to happen, but as a team, we always trust each other. As you can see from the game, we didn’t put our heads down. We just kept fighting until the very end. It’s just gonna get harder, but as long as we communicate, we should be good. This is my last year, and I wouldn’t play with anyone else. I’ve seen the hard work all these guys put in over the summer. Just being a part of that means a lot to me… and wearing La Joya on my chest with a chance to do something that’s never been done means everything to me,” Hinojosa said

Tuesday night’s defeat drops the Sharyland Rattlers record to 2-3 on the season just as they prepare to travel north for a non-district tournament where they will face San Antonio Brackenridge (2-7), and the Kingsville King Brahmas (0-2) in pool play.

The Coyote’s quest for a second consecutive district championship starts January 12th as they face the Edinburg Bobcats, one of the teams they split the 22-23 district championship with.

Big 7 Men’s 2024 Basketball Postseason Information (dates, locations):

February 19-20: Bi-District Round

February 22- 24: Area Round

February 26-27: Quarterfinal Round

5A Region IV Regional Tournament:

March 1-2

Littleton Gym

San Antonio, Texas

6A Region IV Regional Tournament

March 1-2

Northside Sports Gym

San Antonio, Texas

5A/6A UIL State Basketball Tournament:

Thursday, March 7- Saturday, March 9

The Alamodome

San Antonio, Texas

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