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Big 7 girls’ basketball playoffs underway

Lady Diamondbacks advance, Mission and Palmview eliminated

Tuesday night, Mission High School hosted a bi-district matchup between the Mission Lady Eagles and the San Benito Lady Greyhounds basketball teams. It didn’t take long for the home crowd to get invested into the ups and downs of this game The Greyhounds started the game out in their trap defense. This forced a couple of early turnovers for the Eagles. Once they beat the trap, the Eagles were able to find the basket. On defense, the Eagles were dropping into a zone to prevent this pass-heavy Greyhounds team from finding the open shot. Senior guard Justice Cardenas led the way for the Eagles as she found her rhythm early. As the first half was ending, the Greyhounds would bring some extra pressure in the full court that would back the Eagles into a corner. The first half ended with a score of 12-23, Greyhounds.

The Lady Eagles faced strong half court pressure during the game vs the Lady Greyhounds; #5, Bella Rivera, had a difficult time finding someone to pass to. Progress Times photo by Mario Magallon

The Eagles come out of halftime with a mission: Get themselves back into this game. The Eagles tapped into their defense and started to create extra opportunities on offense. Those extra opportunities set Cardenas up for a pair of back-to-back shots as well as some tough shots from junior guard Pamela Zapata, junior forward Isabella Rivera, and senior center Kaitlyn Richardson. This allowed the Eagles to close out the third quarter only down by three points, 24-27. The fourth quarter saw the Eagles continue to fight for the bi-district title, all the way down to the last second. The Greyhounds put the ball into the hands of junior guard Angelina Reyes and she helped extend their lead to ten points.

The Eagles used all their might to climb back into this matchup, but the hole they dug was too deep to climb out of. The Eagles left it all out on the court in this 26-39 loss to the Greyhounds. The Lady Eagles season may have come to an end, but their legacy will live on. They gave this home crowd something to be excited about for many years to come. Congrats to the Lady Eagles on a remarkable season.

Eagles’ Justice Cardenas led the way for the Eagles with 13 points. Eagles’ Kaitlyn Richardson followed, trailing her with five points of her own.

Progress Times spoke to Eagles head coach Erica Molina about the feel of the locker room after a season-ending loss, “At the end of the day you hate to see them go. There was one point in the game where my junior [Isabella Rivera] had a shot that literally went in and out to tie the game at 27. It’s heartbreaking as a coach knowing that you’re right there. When I talked to my girls in the locker room, I told them sometimes at the end of the day, it’s not going to go your way. The team that makes the least amount of errors and most shots is going to win that game.”

Bailey Hernandez, #10 of Mission, shoots two points while being guarded by Lady Greyhounds. Progress Times photo by Mario Magallon

“It’s like I said last week, you have to keep your head in the game, if you fall asleep, they will get you. I told them that they need to hold their heads up high because when I started here three years ago, Mission hadn’t made the playoffs in 15 years,” Molina added. “This team has raised the bar so much higher. I told them to break down those sequences of events and realize how close they were to breaking that barrier and winning a bi-district title. As a coach you’re always going to reflect what you could have done differently, but there was nothing that we could’ve done differently. It was just us going out there and playing 100% for every second of that game.”

Molina went on to say, “The girls definitely made me proud because when you’re not used to being around this kind of playoff environment it can mess with your focus, but the girls held up their end of the bargain and they came to play. We’re still looking for a bi-district title but we have a lot of our young girls coming back so we’re very excited about next year.”

As the weeks go on, the more teams fall out of the UIL state playoffs. Three of the Big 7 Lady Basketball teams all competed on Tuesday in the hopes of extending their seasons deep into the post season: The Eagles, the Palmview Lobos, and the Pioneer Diamondbacks. As we know, the Eagles season came to an end. The Lobos, after coming off a district championship, were eliminated on Tuesday as well. Their historic season led by their group of four-year letterman seniors came to an end in a 42-45 loss to the Gregory-Portland Lady Wildcats.

The Pioneer Diamondbacks have advanced to the Area round after defeating the Brownsville Lopez Lady Lobos 50-40 and claiming a bi-district championship. Progress Times got the chance to speak to the Diamondbacks head coach Nicole Sandoval about their win over the Lady Lobos, “I thought our girls fought for every possession and were poised when we needed to be. I am extremely proud of the work they continue to put in. This win was a total team win and I am extremely grateful and blessed for my assistant coaches who all have a huge part in preparing our team. We are a team within a team, so we will come together to prep for our girls.”

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