Standing ‘Tal’: McAllen Memorial senior Talamantez takes home Player of the Year award

McALLEN — The pressure was on Tani Talamantez from the beginning.

“I had big shoes to fill in,” the McAllen Memorial point guard said. “Coach (Clarisse Arredondo) had lost some seniors and I was coming in as a starting freshman point guard. I had to take practice seriously because you don’t want to be the freshman who’s slacking. You have to push harder to prove you belong on the varsity team and be just as good as everybody else. As the seasons went along, my teammates appreciated my position on the court and I appreciated theirs.”

Talamantez’s senior season was undoubtedly her best. She led the upper Valley in scoring (20.9 points per game), while averaging 2.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.1 steals per game. Talamantez was selected as The Monitor’s 2018-19 All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

The Player of the Year honor isn’t the only recognition she received since the end of the season. The Texas Girls Coaches Association handpicked Talamantez onto its Class 6A All-State team. TGCA’s All-State team is comprised of the top 40 Class 6A players in Texas.

Talamantez was one of three Valley ballplayers to crack the All-State team’s top 40. Edinburg High’s Jenessah Santa Maria and Brownsville Hanna’s Mia Paz were the other two.

“My dad was the one who told me all this. I had no idea. I was shocked,” Talamantez said. “One day, it was this one (All-Area POY), the next day it was the other one (TGCA All-State team). I feel honored and appreciated to be recognized by people around the state.”

“That’s probably a first in McAllen Memorial history,” McAllen Memorial coach Clarisse Arredondo said of Talamantez’s presence on the TGCA 6A All-State team. “It’s a huge accomplishment because Tani’s come such a long way. She started for me as a freshman and had been my starting point guard ever since. She took our program to a higher level. The way we ended our season wasn’t indicative of our success throughout the season. We’re extremely proud to have had one of the best players in the state of Texas.”

McAllen Memorial’s season ended with a heartbreaking 62-58 first-round loss to Laredo United South, but it was nonetheless a memorable year.

District 30-6A lost La Joya Palmview, a playoff team in 2017-18, and gained PSJA North and PSJA High, two eventual playoff teams in 2018-19. The new competition did not deter the Mustangs, who ripped through district play with a perfect 14-0 record while winning games by an average of 51.5 points.

Over Talamantez’s past three seasons, the Mustangs won 37 of 38 district games. The last district loss Talamantez witnessed came against cross-town rival McAllen High, a 64-53 defeat Jan. 31, 2017.

“During my junior year, I had my girls around me,” Talamantez said. “We had some upperclassmen, but all these girls knew each other and got along great. Having that relationship off the court and then bringing it on the court helped us substantially. We knew where to be on the court. We knew we had to trust each other and we wanted to trust each other.”

“Prior to us, it was (McAllen) Nikki Rowe who won consecutive titles. Before then, it was McHi who won it for a large number of years,” Arredondo said. “When I got this job, being a McHi alum, my goal and objective was to turn Memorial basketball into the best program in McAllen and one of the best in the Valley. The success in our district has to come from the fire within us to want more than a district title. After every season ends abruptly for us, it’s, ‘Let’s get to work. Let’s get better.’ There might be some people who would like to win the district year after year and for that to be a top goal. The most important thing for us is to be the last team standing one day.”

The Mustangs’ loss to Laredo United South also marked the final time Talamantez will share a high school court with sister and sophomore guard Cori Talamantez.

“We grew up playing against each other since we were 6 or 7 years old,” Tani Talamantez said. “I told her last year, ‘Cori, if you want to be on varsity, you’re going to have to work for it. I did and now you have to do the same thing.’ She took it seriously. Playing my last two years with her was special.”

Arredondo appreciated her 5-foot-4 guard’s insistence on being herself on the court.

“She’s played a lot of club ball against bigger players for years,” Arredondo said. “I wouldn’t say she’s fearless, but she had the mindset of ‘I’m going to go out there and do my thing.’ I got the most out of her doing her thing. We’re going to have to build off of it without her next year.”