KINGSVILLE — Sharyland Pioneer came roaring into the area round of the Class 5A state playoffs after notching a come-from-behind win over a feisty Edcouch-Elsa in its bi-district tilt.
The Diamondbacks (23-13, 14-0) quickly found themselves on the opposite end of things against Corpus Christi Veterans (31-7), though.
After battling back and forth for a 6-5 edge in the opening minutes of play, Pioneer lost control of the contest swiftly and decisively. The Eagles held the Diamondbacks scoreless for more than 8 minutes and reeled off a 27-point scoring run to crack the game wide open.
Corpus Christi Veterans would continue to ramp up the tempo of its transition attack and full-court pressure defense on its way to a runaway 43-12 area round playoff victory over Sharyland Pioneer on Thursday night at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Sharyland Pioneer head coach Nicole Villarreal said. “Definitely our inexperience, especially in this position, really kicked in,” Sharyland Pioneer head coach Nicole Villarreal said. “They were prepared and knew what to do, it was just a matter of execution.”
The Eagles scored the final 17 points of the first quarter to carry a commanding 22-6 advantage into the second.
But the Diamondbacks continued to struggle to get things going offensively and were held scoreless for the first 2:30 of the quarter as the Eagles added another 10 points to their lead.
Pioneer was able to punch back before the end of the half, but had already fallen into a deep hole and had trouble overcoming Corpus Christi Veterans’ tenacious full-court defense.
Veterans switched its defensive looks between an air-tight man-to-man set and a hellacious half-court trap. The Eagles’ collective length and speed really flustered Pioneer, as they repeatedly jumped passing lanes for steals and set up their flying Fastbreak attack.
The Diamondbacks were often forced into taking bad fouls frequently which put the team in early foul trouble that only exacerbated the situation and dug them into a deeper hole. Pioneer put Corpus Christi Veterans into the bonus on the initial possession of the second quarter and then into the double bonus just 29 seconds into the frame.
“Not shutting the gates the way that we were supposed to or shutting them but being late. That’s what was causing the fouls,” Villarreal said. “It countered what we were trying to do (offensively) as well.”
The Diamondbacks trailed 43-12 at the half and looked panicked at times offensively trying to fight their way back into the contest. The Eagles’ massive advantage coerced Pioneer into settling for dicey, contested 3-pointers and midrange jumpers in an effort to close the gap.
Instead, Sharyland Pioneer converted just 1 of 11 3-point attempts on the night and had problems inside the arc too, shooting just 22%.
“It was a lot of mental,” Villarreal said. “We went up against a really athletic team and things we’re really not used to with the athleticism and jumping in those passing lanes. We played a really good team, but we did have some mental breakdowns and it took a while.”
Corpus Christi Veterans, meanwhile, shot an incredibly efficient 50% from the field and 45% from deep while adding 19 points at the free throws line. The Eagles also owned a huge 33-16 edge in the rebounding battle.
Alexia Hernandez and Natalie Reyes led the way offensively for Pioneer with six points each while Veterans’ forwards Katelen Brooks and Sammi Perez combined for 32.
The loss brings the Diamondbacks’ sensational season to an abrupt end, snapping a 15-game winning streak dating back to December 2019. Despite losing two-time defending district MVP Audrey Hornaday to injury in the preseason, Pioneer pulled off an undefeated run through district play and a comeback bi-district win with the team ready to run it back.
“We definitely grew immensely. We took the season in strides. They set out to No. 1 get a district championship. That was a check. Second thing was to get an undefeated district championship. That was another check. To get past the first round was another one,” Villarreal said. “I thought we had a really nice, good season and it’s really putting us on the map. I think these young ladies have definitely set the tone for our future.”