PHARR — When the Valley View Tigers and Brownsville Veterans Chargers collided for the first time in district play, it was a clash between a pair of programs on different trajectories.
The Chargers (22-5, 4-0), who have long dominated District 32-5A, and the Tigers (20-5, 3-1), who are off to their best start in more than a decade, finally met with sole possession of first place in the district on the line.
Valley View’s hot shooting night kept the team out in front for three quarters, but ultimately Brownsville Veterans’ tenacious full court press and second-half surge were enough to earn the Chargers a 49-40 come-from-behind victory Tuesday at Valley View High School.
“They’re the king of the court in our district. We knew coming in they were going to be tough. We’re the new kids on the block,” Valley View head coach Arnold Martinez said. “I’m not going to say I’m disappointed, but at least we showed that we could put up a fight. Maybe the second time around at their place it’ll be a different story, but I’m proud of my girls. All respect to Brownsville Vets, they’ve been on top for a long time and we’re just trying to emulate them the best we can.”
The first quarter started out as a scoring frenzy, as the Chargers and Tigers traded leads back and forth every trip up and down the floor. Brownsville Veterans was intent on taking away Valley View’s inside scoring presence and double-teamed standout center Jimena Munoz.
“Coach (Lee) has done a really good job with that group and their post player has been doing a really good job down low,” Brownsville Veterans head coach Arnold Torres Jr. said. “What we were trying to do was force her to kick it out. She still scored some points on us, but we did work on double teaming and trying to rotate over.”
Munoz was still able to get her share of points, though, as Valley View’s premier post player tallied 13 points, a team-high five rebounds and a pair of blocks and steals each. But the Tigers made the most of defensive scheme they were presented with.
Guards Lexi Ortegon and Julie Ponce, as well as forward Daniela Garza helped their team shoot the lights out from behind the arc, sinking 50% of their 3-point attempts.
“That’s our game,” Martinez said. “If all our 3s fall, it could’ve been a different game. But all respect to them, they put the pressure on when they needed it.”
Valley View’s swarming man-to-man defense was particularly effective in the second quarter. The Tigers ability to switch defensively limited the Chargers to just three points and one basket in the quarter.
But heading into the half, Brownsville Vets was able to make a few key strategic adjustments.
“Valley View came out and did a really good job of executing offensively and defensively and kind of flustered our girls at the beginning. We were struggling a little bit,” Torres said. “We went into halftime and were able to make some adjustments and do some things that I thought were a little bit more positive for our girls. That gave us some momentum heading forward.”
The Chargers came out of the half looking to increase the tempo of the game and did so by shifting into a full court press defensively. It caught the Tigers off guard and gave Brownsville Vets the comeback window it desperately needed.
The Chargers were able to force several turnovers that in turn created easy scoring opportunities for the team in the fastbreak.
“I felt like in that first half we were a little timid trying to run a couple of different offenses. We were a little timid at executing when we started to play, and I think because of that we were kind of forcing some shots,” Torres said. “Once we came out in the second half, we were able to get a little more ball pressure and that gave us some easy transition points, which kind of boosted our confidence.”
The Tigers had trouble breaking Brownsville Vets’ press and ran into problems pushing the ball up court with tipped balls, double dribbles and traveling calls getting in their way. Ultimately they would be outscored 15-4 over the last 8 minutes of play.
“Sometimes it’s hard to lose a lead and you give them credit, but I think we beat ourselves tonight. It’s hard to say that because they’re a great program, but I think we could have protected that ball pressure wise,” Martinez said. “We’ve only faced about three other teams like Weslaco and Rio Hondo that do what they did to us. We haven’t seen it enough. We’re definitely going to practice it, though, put this behind us and move forward.”
Forward Lizzie Garcia led the way for the Chargers with a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds, while Alex Parchmont and Catie Esquivel each added nine points. Garza led the scoring charge for the Tigers, as Ponce and Ortegon chipped in seven and six points, respectively.
Brownsville Veterans will return to action when it hosts Brownsville Porter at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while Valley View will hit the road for its next game against Edcouch-Elsa at the same time.