MISSION — Three teams from District 31-5A — Mission Veterans, Rio Grande City and Sharyland Pioneer — will continue their playoff push into the area round today and Friday. The Diamondbacks, Patriots and Rattlers all escaped with tight victories in tightly-contested bi-district playoff games Monday.
Mission Veterans (24-12, 10-4) was the first of the group to run into trouble against a Valley View team that was playing the program’s first postseason game in over a decade.
The Tigers (25-12, 8-6) got on the board first, but the Patriots went on a 20-8 run to close the half thanks to their smothering defense holding Valley View to just 8% shooting from inside the arc and 14% from deep in the first two quarters.
The Patriots, however, had to gold off a hard-charging Tigers team that came within one point of retaking the lead on several occasions.
But Mission Veterans ultimately prevailed 36-32 because of the offensive output of senior guards Ronnie Cantu and Kaylee Flores, who combined for 29 points on 41.1% shooting, and its dominance on the boards as an under-sized team, which proved to be instrumental in its success.
“Playoff teams don’t lay down, they fight. We knew that was going to happen. We had so many possessions in that third quarter where they didn’t score and then we didn’t score,” Mission Veterans head coach Rafael Cantu said. “I knew that was going to come back to bite us and it did. We gave Valley View a little momentum, they hit a few shots and started to come back. But we answered every run they made. We knew it was going to be tough.”
Sharyland Pioneer (23-12, 14-0) found itself in a dilemma in its bi-district playoff contest against Edcouch-Elsa (15-16, 7-7).
After cruising through most of district play, the Diamondbacks entered halftime trailing a battle-tested Yellow Jackets, who won three of their last four games including a play-in game to advance to the bi-district round.
But Sharyland Pioneer rallied in the second half to secure a 45-40 victory and improved its winning streak to 15 games, while Rio Grande City also had to fight for a come-from-behind win.
The Rattlers (26-10, 11-3) trailed by three at the half to Mercedes (21-16, 8-6). Rio Grande City sophomore guard Melanie Lopez caught fire and scored half of her team’s 26 second-half points and lifted the team to a 51-42 win.
“Melanie has been very consistent,” Rio Grande City head coach Gus Valenciana said. “She’s been our most consistent player throughout the year.”
Sharyland Pioneer will kick off area round action against Corpus Christi Veterans (30-7) at 7 tonight at Texas A&M-Kingsville. Meanwhile, Mission Veterans will take on Flour Bluff (18-7) at 6 p.m. Friday at Texas A&M Kingsville and Rio Grande City will play Corpus Christi Carroll (31-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Falfurias High School.
31-6A CO-CHAMPS PREP FOR LAREDO SQUADS
The Edinburg High Bobcats and Weslaco High Panthers, both back-to-back 31-6A co-district champions, are only two of a handful of Rio Grande Valley 6A squads left standing in the area round.
While Harlingen High and Los Fresnos both advanced with convincing wins, all of the 30-6A playoff teams — La Joya High, McAllen Memorial, McAllen Rowe and PSJA North — were wiped out by Laredo squads.
That clears the way for the Bobcats and Panthers to power their way into the third round against the lesser of the four Laredo playoff teams.
Edinburg High (35-3, 11-1) has been on an absolute tear since dropping its lone district game at home to the Panthers, beating them by double digits twice since and hammering every other team in its way.
The Bobcats are fresh off a 65-37 thrashing of Brownsville Hanna and led by 22 points after the first 8 minutes of play. Seniors Leslie Martinez Brianna Sanchez and junior Daysha Tijerina all notched double-digit scoring totals and combined for 43 points.
The Bobcats will now take on Laredo Alexander (14-11), the No. 3 seed from District 29-6A, which took down PSJA North in the bi-district round. Edinburg High will take on Alexander at 7 p.m. Friday in Roma, but head coach John David Salinas and his team aren’t looking past their competition.
“We’re just going to keep things the same. It’s the playoffs and it doesn’t matter how well we’ve done the whole season,” Salinas said. “We’re not going to take anything for granted.”
Weslaco High (31-7, 11-1) earned an 11-point road victory over Harlingen South in the bi-district round, the program’s ninth consecutive victory in the opening round of the postseason.
The Panthers will take on Laredo United (25-13), the fourth and final Laredo squad to make the playoffs that upset four-time District 30-6A McAllen Memorial in their bi-district game.
Weslaco will need to learn the lessons Memorial learned the hard way by beating Nixon on the boards and from deep, two things the Panthers’ deep roster is already well-equipped to do.
HIDALGO LOOKS TO GET BACK TO ROUND 3
Hidalgo (34-4, 14-0) plowed through its district competition and performed well against some of the Valley’s premier 5A and 6A teams earlier in the season, too.
But the Pirates got off to a difficult start this postseason after narrowly beating Robstown 36-31 on a neutral court. Now Hidalgo has a difficult task ahead with Devine (20-5), the District 29-4A runners-up, which ran away with a 30-point victory in their bi-district battle against La Vernia.
Hidalgo will need its senior-laden starting five to ramp up the tempo to top the Warhorses and secure the program’s second trip to the third round in the last five years and its first since 2018.
“As long as we press and cover our responsibilities, we should be good,” Hidalgo head coach Saul Arjona said. “Let’s hustle, try to run, play tight, physical defense and put points up there. If we can speed up the points, we’re going to be fine.”