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Big 7 Boys Basketball: Bi-district round recap

Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks celebrate the win during last Tuesday’s playoff match against Weslaco East Wildcats. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Underdog Diamondbacks advance

The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks remain as the lone Big 7 survivor after the bi-district round of the 2024 UIL Boys State Basketball Playoffs. The La Joya Palmview Lobos, La Joya Coyotes, and Mission Eagles have all been eliminated. As a result, the Diamondbacks have advance to the Area round, where they will test their mettle against one of the best basketball teams in 5A basketball. Their toughest test lies ahead of them. The Diamondbacks’ trusted recipe of senior leadership, strong perimeter defense, clutch shot-making, and a collective never-say-die mentality will undoubtedly be the deciding factor in tonight’s game. Here’s a recap of each Big 7 Bi-District playoff round matchups:

Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks’ Edward Chavez flies for the score during last Tuesday’s playoff win against Weslaco East Wildcats. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks (21-14, 11-7):

2024 Bi-District Champions

Tuesday night in Mission, the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks upset the top-seeded, 32-5A District Champions, Weslaco East Wildcats, in a 42-20 slugfest at home. The win comes exactly one year after the Diamondbacks lost to the Wildcats 41-27 in the Bi-District round of the 2023 state playoffs.

A late Diamondbacks’ run led by seniors Joshua Gaither, Edward Chavez, and Julian Valdez erased a Weslaco East lead with just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Constant pressure from Weslaco East guards Jediah Rivens, Zion Rodriguez, and EJ Garza nearly folded the Diamondbacks—however, veteran leadership and the unrelenting will to win powered them to victory. A last-second contest from Leo Espinoza Jr. to force a Rodriguez miss sealed the Diamondbacks’ win and punched their ticket to the Area round. The Diamondbacks will take on the 30-5 Gregory-Portland Wildcats tonight at Kingsville High School in Kingsville, Texas. Tip-off is set for 6:30 PM.

“I’ve been with some of these guys for four years as an assistant and as a head coach for two years. It’s been an incredible journey. We don’t always come out with our best game… but they came out and played for each other and did what we planned to do,” Head Coach Fernando Rodriguez said.

La Joya Coyotes (24-15, 9-1):

31-6A Co-District Champions

Playoff Result: Bi-District Playoff loss to Brownsville Hanna High School

On Monday night, the La Joya Coyotes postseason journey ended abruptly as they lost to the Hanna High Eagles 60-50 in the Bi-diistric round of the UIL State Playoffs. The Coyotes repeated as district champions but again fell short in the Bi-District round. Big man Leo Villarreal led the Coyotes in scoring and powered his squad to within one point to start the fourth quarter. Solid performances from teammates Daniel Trevino, Owen Benoit, and Leo Hinojosa nearly gave the Coyotes the edge over the Eagles. But a late Coyote scoring drought and a 14-5 Eagle run sealed the Coyotes’ fate.

“I’m just so grateful for my kids and how committed they are all season long and how selfless they are as individuals. They always look at the big picture of the program and I am so blessed to be a part of that. Kids have been resilient this year, overcoming many injuries as a team. They stayed the course, and we have made history at La Joya ISD, winning back-to-back district titles,” Head Coach Eric Montalvo said.

Mission Eagles (12-25, 4-6)

Playoff Result: Bi-District Playoff loss to Harlingen High School

The Mission Eagles underdog 2024 season ended Tuesday night after they lost to the Harlingen Cardinals 66-47. A near decade-long playoff absence and a new head coaching change inspired this year’s Eagles team to change the negative narratives surrounding their program. Although many overlooked them, the Eagles managed to defy the odds and make the UIL State Playoffs. The Eagles will miss senior leaders Isaac Rios and Isael Cerda next year, but returners like Leon Villarreal, Christopher Kirk, and Alexis Alvarado have the Eagles primed for repeat success.

“I’m very proud of these guys. They played hard to the end. Everybody counted us out from the beginning… One thing we said all year is we have “Something to prove,” Head Coach Sam Cortez said.

La Joya Palmview Lobos (24-15, 7-7)

Playoff Result: Bi-District Playoff loss to Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial High School

The La Joya Palmview boys’ basketball team suffered a crushing defeat against the Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial basketball team in the Bi-district round of the UIL State Playoffs on Tuesday night. The 70-37 loss ended the Lobos’ hopes of advancing farther in the state playoffs and came against the exact team that beat them last year. The Lobos boasted one of the most complete guard trios in the Valley, with Joe Gonzalez, Adrian Ibarra, and Leonardo Villarreal conducting their offense and galvanizing their defense. After surviving one of the toughest districts in south Texas, the Lobos unfortunately drew an undefeated district champion. The Lobos finish the year with a winning record and playoff appearance for the second consecutive year.

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