Friday’s District 29-5A South Zone atmosphere between Veterans Memorial and Flour Bluff felt like a playoff, and for good reason.
All four teams were looking to gain an advantage in the county title race after starting the night unbeaten in league play.
Both games were close throughout the first three quarters, but each ended with a surge in the second half of the Veterans Memorial that resulted in a double header by the Eagles.
The Vets girls won 55–47 and the Vets boys took a 75–58 victory and went undefeated in their respective districts.
“We knew it was going to be a good crowd and we knew they were good,” Vets point guard Mia De La Peña said. and play our game. Everyone on our team gave 110%.”
The Eagles (21-8, 4-0) made an early jump, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Flour Bluff, who started the night ranked 10th in the Texas Basketball Coaches Association Class 5A Girls Poll, answered behind Maggie Croft and Neva Gray who helped level the score. Croft completed the early comeback by hitting a 3-pointer to give Flour Bluff a 12–9 lead.
The Vets answered the run with their defense and a goal from Adeline Perez. Pérez led the Eagles by eight points in the first half to hold off the Hornets’ run in the second quarter, and Ella Ortiz beat the buzzer in the second quarter to give the Vets a 28–25 halftime lead.
The Hornets (25-4, 3-1) opened the third quarter 5-0 and took the lead to start the fourth.
But, just like in the second quarter, the Eagles used their defense to get back into the game and beat Fluor Bluff 16-6 in the final period to secure the win. Ella Ortiz added 13 points and De La Peña finished with 11 to lead the Eagles.
“I just knew I had to help my team,” said Perez, who scored a game-best 18 points. We work together as a team and that’s how we got the lead. We never gave up.
“It boosts our confidence, but we still have a lot of things to work on because we have to play them again.”
The vets continue the district game against Moody on Tuesday, while the Hornets play Carroll next Friday at home.
The two teams will meet again on January 31 at Flour Bluff, the final day of the regular season.
“All the girls came out and contributed,” Veterans Memorial girls coach Roy De La Peña said. “We had several kids who kept us in the game. The ball just flew in our direction, and I’m proud of the girls. Everyone did what they had to.”
Croft said the Hornets will learn from the loss and try to capitalize on what went wrong when the two teams meet again in three weeks.
“Every little thing about a game that was good, we’re going to improve, and everything that was bad, we’re going to improve next time,” said Croft, who led Flour Bluff with 15 points. “I think the team that we have will not take it as a loss in general, but will get better and raise the level of our game.”
As for the boys, Veterans Memorial’s Sean Mandragon scored all of his nine points in the fourth quarter, but each throw from the promising freshman was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Mandragon recorded back-to-back interceptions in a matter of seconds, leading to a slam dunk and layup to put the finishing touch in the Eagles’ 26-point fourth quarter.
“I got theft and I had to come down,” Mandragon said. “We needed that momentum and I got the dunk. I had to knock down a free throw and then another interception. Again, hard work.”
Billy White III led the game with 26 points, including five 3-pointers. CJ Vela and Jordyn Hurd each scored 12 points on offense.
Pete Herrick led Flour Bluff with 14 points followed by Lukas Drasoutis with 13 points.
“When we planned the games last year, we knew these were going to be big games for us,” Vets coach Billy White Jr. said. “One of the things we did for our schedule was that we schedule games that were playoff games at the start of the season so our guys could be prepared for those kinds of situations. I was really proud of our guys for the way they came. tonight”.
The turning point for the Vets came in the third quarter when the team used the 10-0 scoreline to change momentum.
The Hornets, who had been in the game for over three quarters, were unable to catch up after the Eagles used three-point shots, paint runs and point losses to take control.
“We talked about the days leading up to the game that we need to have better control over the pace of the game,” Flour Bluff coach Brandon Burg said. “They obviously want to play up and down… but no excuses. Today they played better in their style, and this is the merit of coach White. These guys came prepared.”
The Hornets are looking to bounce back against King on the road on Tuesday.
Herrick said the team will turn the page and look forward to their next game against the Vets on January 31 at home.
“I think we’ll have a great chance to play them at home,” Herrick said. “We just have to play our game, make stops and prevent losses and fouls.”
The Eagles will look to maintain their unbeaten run in the county when they face Moody on Tuesday.
“We knew we were going to have to fight Carroll first this week and then we were ready for this game,” said Vela, who ended the game with four 3s for the Vets. “We did everything we could to win. We came with energy and did our job.”
Friday Top Performers
Lonnie Adkism, Miller: Scored 20 points in a district win over Victoria West.
Billy White III: Led the Eagles with 26 points in a district win over Floor Bluff.
Pete Herrick, Flour Bluff: Led the Hornets with 15 points against the Veterans Memorial.
Triston Handson, Sinton: Led the Pirates with 16 points in a district win over Orange Grove.
Bryce Burnett, Kalallen: Scored 24 points and led the Wildcats to a District victory over Kingsville.
Logan Blankenship, Rockport Fulton: Led the Pirates with 21 points in a district win over Ingleside.
Mason Trevino, Alice: Finished with 13 points in a district win over Robstown.
George Acosta, Aransas: Scored a game-best 23 points in a regional win over Goliad.
RJ Hinojosa, Skidmore-Tynan: Led the Lynxes with 10 points in a district win over Yorktown.
Matthew Corey, IWA: Finished with 21 points in a win over Berne Geneva.
Caleb Riojas, Annapolis Christian Academy: Finished the game with 22 points against Trinity.
Adeline Lopez, Veterans Memorial: Scored 18 points in a district win over Flour Bluff.
Maggie Croft, Flour Bluff: Scored 15 points to lead the Hornets against the Veterans Memorial.
Ja’Naisha Kelly, Carroll: Led the Tigers with 14 points in a district win over King.
Alaina Blanco, King: Scored 14 points against Carroll.
Shae Ruiz, Ingleside: Finished with a game-best 27 points in a victory over Rockport Fulton in the county.
Carly Haygood, Kalallen: Led the Wildcats with 13 points against Kingsville.
Michaela Boyd, Kingsville: Scored a game-best 18 points in a district win over Kalallen.
Kailyn Cervantes and Aviel Silva, Alice: Each scored 10 points against Robstown.
Hailee Yulenfeld and Abby Kotara, Orange Grove: Each finished with 16 points in a district win over Sinton.
Kayla Rivas, Sinton: Led the Pirates with 11 points against Orange Grove.
Logan Borchardt, Bishop: Led the Badgers with 20 points in a district win over Thuloso-Midway.
Jackie Garcia, Mathis: Led the Pirates with 22 points in a district win over Odem.
Angelina Zepeda, Aransas pass: Scored 20 points in a victory over Goliad.
Marley Sanchez and Emma Longoria, San Diego: Each scored 13 points in the district win over Falfurrias.
Neddia Gonzalez, Skidmore-Tynan: Led the Lynxes with 19 points in a district win over Yorktown.
Belen Garcia, Annapolis Christian Academy: Scored 13 points in a win over Lifegate.