McALLEN — The Falcons entered the 2019 City of Palms Basketball Tournament with one goal in mind: bring the first place trophy back home to Los Fresnos.
After battling adversity along with top competition for three straight days at McAllen Rowe High School, the Falcons accomplished their goal, as Los Fresnos was crowned champion of the City of Palms tourney with a 55-35 victory over the host Rowe Warriors on Saturday night.
“It was a great tournament. Coach (Jose) Yebra is a classy guy and there was great competition that’s going to get us better for district,” Los Fresnos head coach Marco Hinojosa said after receiving hardware for his team’s first place victory. “I’m just very proud of these guys for fighting through adversity. They could have folded real easy and said ‘Oh, we don’t have players’, but they have the mentality of next man up. It’s a senior ball club and they wanted to win as one of our goals. They came out here, played well and took care of business.”
The Falcons took a 31-26 lead into the fourth quarter and saw their advantage balloon up to 20 points as Los Fresnos outscored the Warriors 24-9 over the final eight minutes.
“We take a lot of pride in defense. That’s one of the main things that we practice, we always say that offense will take care of itself,” Los Fresnos guard Elian Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“It’s fun getting MVP and everything, but I feel like it’s more of a team team thing. I don’t feel like I’m the MVP of the team, I feel like I’m more of a leader on the team,” he said.
Los Fresnos’ freshman phenom Gerry Martinez was held out earlier this week and during the first two days of the tournament before suiting up for the semifinals and championship round on Saturday.
Martinez went on to drop 14 points and dished out a number of assists to teammates for easy buckets near the rim against Rowe.
“I felt great. I made sure I was 100% and the trainers did a really good job of getting me ready,” Martinez said. “The team did amazing and really set the bar high for us.”
Martinez and teammates Ricky Altamirano and Alex Moreno earned all-tournament team honors.
“He (Gerry) could have easily sat, but he’s a competitor,” Hinojosa said of Martinez. “We sat him for basically the last 10 days. He didn’t score much, but his IQ of the game and his ball-handling abilities and decision-making put us at a different level. It put other people back in their positions. He’s got five days to rest now and we have to focus on the Kingsville tournament next.”
Before taking down Rowe in the championship game, the Falcons pulled out an overtime win against district foe Brownsville Rivera 53-49 and knocked off Sharyland Pioneer in the semifinals of the tournament.
Next up for Los Fresnos is the Kingsville Holiday Shootout, a two-day tournament which runs Friday through Saturday.
Meanwhile, McAllen Rowe has two non-district games slated before the new year, as the Warriors will take on Edinburg North on Saturday and Sharyland Pioneer on Monday, Dec. 30.
Rowe’s Darrin Everage and Louie Yebra were also named to the all-tournament team.
The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks earned third-place at the tournament, while La Joya High won the consolation championship with an 88-72 win over San Benito.