Competitive girls high school basketball kicked into full gear in earnest this week as a vast majority of Rio Grande Valley teams have now made their return to the hardwood at some point during the past two weeks.

The two teams who impressed the most in their first games back, however, were the McAllen Memorial Mustangs and Rio Grande City Rattlers, a pair of teams who made a lot of noise last season.

Memorial capped off a perfect run through district play with a fourth consecutive district championship to end last year’s regular season, and the Mustangs appear to have picked up right where they left off.

Memorial dismantled a pair of playoff teams in two big wins within three days, starting with a resounding season-opening win against perennial Class 5A power Mission Veterans and then thumped Harlingen South in a high-profile road matchup featuring a pair of Class 6A playoff teams from 2019-20.

The Mustangs’ relentless full-court press helped them leap out to a 34-17 halftime advantage over the Hawks on Saturday.

Meanwhile down the road that same afternoon, the Rio Grande City Rattlers rolled to a 31-point season-opening victory over a much larger 6A opponent in Edinburg North.

The Rattlers are led this year by junior guard Melanie Lopez, one of The Monitor’s two 2020 Co-Newcomers of the Year, a deep lineup of young wings and sophomore point guard Britzeida Sanchez.

Rio Grande City is one of four Valley programs playing this season in District 30-5A, the only basketball district in the RGV to feature non-Valley teams too.

The Rattlers are joined by their Starr County rivals, the Roma Gladiators, who picked up a close non-district win over the Zapata Hawks in their home opener Thursday night.

They’re also joined by the La Joya Palmview Lobos, who fell to a Mission Eagles squad Friday that is one of the Valley’s top rebounding crews, and the Mission Veterans Patriots.

The Patriots, though, rebounded in a big way after losing to the Mustangs in their season opener as they picked up a dominant 48-point victory over the PSJA Memorial Wolverines to give incoming Mission Vets head coach Tracy Espino, a longtime Patriots’ assistant, her first career head coaching win at the school.

Espino became the second girls basketball coach in Mission Veterans history after former coach Rafael Cantu stepped down over the summer to travel to watch his daughter, Ronnie, begin her collegiate basketball career at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

At the Class 6A level, Mission High and the Los Fresnos Falcons have each gotten off to fast starts, but all eyes turned to Friday’s marquee matchup between Edinburg High and the Harlingen High Cardinals, the 20th-ranked team in 6A according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason poll.

The Cardinals eked out a win in the Bobcats’ season opener, while both teams showed why they should be regarded as early-season favorites to contend for district titles in 32-6A and 31-6A, respectively.

Valley Girls HS Basketball Scores
Nov. 15, 2020

Thursday’s Games
Non-District

Edinburg Harvest Christian 60, Edcouch-Elsa 37
McAllen Memorial 64, Mission Veterans 20
Roma 50, Zapata 41

Friday’s Games
Non-District

Harlingen High 52, Edinburg High 40
Mission High 57, La Joya Palmview 38
Mission Veterans 52, PSJA Memorial 4
PSJA North 65, Brownsville Hanna 30
Santa Maria 50, Brownsville Rivera 18
Sharyland Pioneer 45, San Benito 18

Saturday’s Games
Non-District

Los Fresnos 45, La Joya High 38
Lyford 52, San Perlita 33
McAllen Memorial 58, Harlingen South 32
Rio Grande City 52, Edinburg North 21
Weslaco High 51, Edinburg Vela 44

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter:@ByAndyMcCulloch