Tuesday night, Mission High School hosted a District 31-6A basketball game between the Mission Lady Eagles and the La Joya Lady Coyotes. The 5-4 Lady Eagles and the 4-5 Lady Coyotes both had a lot to play for in the final game of the regular season. A loss for the Eagles would mean they would have to play in a tournament between the Coyotes, Edinburg North Cougars, and the PSJA Bears that would ultimately decide the seeding for the ensuing playoffs. A win would lock the Eagles into the second seed while the other teams would duke it out for the final two spots to compete in the playoffs. The Coyotes went into this game looking to upset the Eagles and force them to play in that tournament along with them. With a loss, the Coyotes’ season would be over.
The Coyotes set up in a half-court trap to start out the game. They forced the offense of the Eagles to get the ball out of their best players’ hands. They turned up the intensity by transitioning from a half-court defense to a full-court defense. This included the tight guarding of Eagles senior guard Justine Cardenas. The Eagles would respond to that intensity by setting up their press. Both of these teams were leaving it all on the court for a win. The Coyotes kept it neck-and-neck through the first quarter and a half, but they would let the Eagles take an 18-9 lead going into halftime.
The Eagles came out on fire in the second half. The senior guard Cardenas was setting the tempo for the Eagles as she was getting in between passing lanes and dishing out great passes left and right. Cardenas’ basketball IQ was on full display as she helped the Eagles more than double their first half points. This along with some pesky defense would help the Eagles extend their lead to 39 to the Coyotes’ 11 points going into the fourth quarter. The Coyotes would continue to truck along in this game taking the best shots available for them but not a lot of them were dropping. The Coyotes tapped into their defensive mindset from the first quarter and only allowed seven more points from the Eagles. Ultimately the Eagles would take this game 46-14. The Lady Eagles are now locked into second place in District 31-6A with a 6-4 record while the 4-6 Coyotes fall out of the playoffs.
Coyotes’ sophomore guard Cynthia Longoria finished with a team high nine points. Eagles’ senior guard Justice Cardenas finished with a game high 11 points. Junior forward Bella Rivera finished with ten points. Senior Molly Gonzalez finished with eight points.
Progress Times spoke to Cardenas about her performance in the win and what her team is looking forward to as they set their sights to the playoffs, “This year I’m getting face guarded a lot and I’ve learned to adapt to it. I’ve gone through training to help me get open and it showed tonight. Even when I get guarded like that, I know that I have four girls that can score the ball just like I can. This win was needed. We’ve been slacking off and this game ended up being really important for us to make the playoffs. We didn’t want to play the tournament. We were fortunate to come out with a win today. We’re looking forward to the first win in the playoffs. We want to get the first win and get to the second round. If not then I know that my teammates and I fought hard in district and in the playoffs.”
Progress Times spoke to Eagles head coach Erica Molina about the preparations she’s making for her team going into the playoffs, “I told the girls there’s no room for errors. Keeping your composure and playing to your tempo as well as controlling the game is very important when it comes to the playoffs. I told the girls that every possession matters. We want to break through adversity. Everybody is going to come back harder [in the playoffs] and we need to do that as well.”
Big 7 lady basketball teams shooting their way into the playoffs
As for the La Joya Coyotes, they’ll be missing the playoffs for the first time in three years. They hope to turn it around next year as they’ve always been a consistent playoff team. Other Big 7 lady basketball teams that will be missing the playoffs are the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies, Veterans Memorial Patriots, and the Sharyland Rattlers.
The Big 7 lady basketball teams that will be competing in the playoffs include the Mission Eagles in District 31-6A, the District 315A champions Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks, and the District 30-5A champions Palmview Lady Lobos. The 16-3 Lady Diamondbacks and the 13-1 Lady Lobos finished the season off on a win as well as securing their respective district’s championship.
The Diamondbacks have won their fourth district championship in the last six years proving why they’re one of the most dominant programs in the Big 7 as well as the Rio Grande Valley. They finished out their regular season averaging 47 points per game while giving up 32 points a game. This team is led by senior guard Kassandra Garcia, senior guard Valerie Vela, and junior forward Ankika Fleischmann. All these girls have played a massive role in crowning the Diamondbacks district champions again.
The Lobos came into this season to make history and they did just that. This Lobos team has been able to claim a district championship in the past, but this is the first time in school history that they won the championship outright. This year they’ve been able to defy the odds and though it took a couple of years, they were finally able to make it happen. This team is led by their group of four year lettermen seniors Jocelyn Rojas, Hailey Cantu, Gabriela Garza, and Destinee Garza. These four girls have played together for four years at the varsity level and they were able to bring the district championship home in their final year at Palmview High School.
The job is not finished. All three of these teams will continue their fight in the bi-district round of the playoffs next week. Their hope is to come back home with a win instead of a first round exit. Progress Times wishes the best of luck to these Big 7 lady basketball teams as they go out to play against their UIL state playoffs opponents.