By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Lady Tarpons basketball team made the long trip to Zapata Tuesday night and lost a hard-fought battle to the Zapata Lady Hawks in the first district game for both teams.
It went right down to the final buzzer and the final score went in favor of Zapata by a point, 55-54.
“What it came down to was just ball control at the end of the game,” P.I. head coach Blake Ramsey said Wednesday. “We did not play well in the first quarter – dug ourselves into a little hole. We fought out of it and had a great second half.”
The Lady Tarpons never led but stayed close throughout. It was 12-5, Zapata, at the end of the first quarter, and the Lady Hawks maintained the advantage, 22-16, at the half, and 38-32 at the end of three.
Port Isabel refused to go away and in the fourth quarter it got interesting. Zapata’s lead was six with about 2:30 to play in the fourth. The Lady Tarpons caught up and tied the score at 47, 49, and again at 51.
Zapata took a three-point lead on free throws with less than 30 seconds to play, and Coach Ramsey described what happened next: “We were down three with 20-some seconds left. The ball got knocked around and Alex (Martinez) got it and she was wide open. She stepped up … knocked down the three with 17 seconds left to tie it at 54.”
Zapata inbounded the ball and Port Isabel tried desperately to foul, but; “Zapata did a good job keeping the ball away from us, so by the time we were able to foul there was 1.7 seconds left.”
The Zapata player missed the free throw and Port Isabel grabbed the rebound but was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer went off, and that was a final, 55-54.
Martinez finished with a career-best 32 points, got six rebounds, and led the team with 10 steals. Tasha Ramirez scored seven points and stole two balls. Jasmine Saldivar had five points and five steals. Karina Vela and Ava Gomez each put up four points and Vela blocked a shot.
As a team Port Isabel totaled 23 steals on the night.
A few more made free throws could have made the difference for the Lady Tarpons; they made only three of ten attempts. The Lady Hawks sank 12 of 14 foul shots.
“Zapata has two big girls and they scored 26 and 17 points,” Ramsey said. “In the district we give up a lot in size but we make up for it in quickness and heart, desire to win.”
“We kept fighting to the end. It’s a testament to the girls will to keep fighting, no matter what.”
Last Friday the Lady Tarpons varsity lost to Brownsville St. Joseph’s, 35-29. The JV team also came up short that night, 42-31. The freshmen team lost, 19-12 at Zapata, and the JV squad won, 30-22.
Port Isabel will play its district home opener this Friday night against Rio Hondo. The Lady Bobcats also lost their district opener, 44-37, to Hidalgo.
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