Tarpons Go 2-2 at Vail Tournament

Special to the PRESS

There were no miraculous upsets for the Port Isabel High boys’ basketball team at last week’s 87th annual C.E. Vail tournament in La Feria.

The Tarpons lost 53-37 to McAllen and 76-48 to San Benito, both Class 6A schools, on Thursday.  The loss to McAllen put the Tarpons in the consolation bracket of the three-day event, and the San Benito loss left them with two guaranteed games to play.

Those two games turned out much better for Port Isabel and both were played on Friday.  The Tarpons outlasted Quest Academy of Edinburg, 55-49, and beat San Perlita, 47-42.

First-year P.I. head coach Anthony Velarde is quite familiar with the McAllen hoops program as he coached against them for the past several years as an assistant at McAllen Memorial High School.  “They’re rebuilding, so I thought it would be a good boost for us to get in there and swing away against a 6A squad.”

McAllen led 9-6 at the end of the first quarter of play, 23-21 at the half, and 36-29 at the start of the fourth quarter.  Against San Benito the Tarpons trailed 13-9 at the end of one, 36-20 at the break, and 59-29 at the end of three quarters.

“We didn’t go in with any fear or trepidation at all,” Coach Velarde told the Press, referring to the McAllen game.  “In the fourth quarter we had some turnovers.  It’s a good program and they’re well-coached.”

If things went about as well as could be expected against McAllen, considering the two steps up in class, it all seemed to come apart in the San Benito game.

“That was probably our worst game of the season, from a scoring standpoint,” Velarde said Wednesday.  “It was a big-time learning experience for us.  They were able to trap us because we weren’t passing the ball as quickly as we needed to.  Once they got on top of us we couldn’t see over them or around them.  They forced us into some big-time turnovers.”

Coach Velarde believes in the idea that more can often be learned from a loss than a win.  “It’s easy to be happy and pat each other on the back and be positive when everything is going well for you.  So this was an opportunity for us to mature as a team and test our character.  We’ve got to be able to weather that storm and not panic, and I thought … early in the game, we did panic a little bit.”

The games with Quest Academy and San Perlita were both rematches from earlier in the season.  The Tarpons lost the first game against Quest and beat San Perlita the first time around with that squad.

“I was happy for the opportunity to face them (Quest) again,” Velarde said Wednesday.  “We executed, we cut down on our turnovers, and we made our free throws.”

Port Isabel shot 65 percent from the free throw line against Quest, and that was its best foul shot percentage in any game this season.

“We’re ready for you this time,” the San Perlita head coach told Velarde before the game.

“We knew they were going to come out ready to go,” Velarde said.  “We weren’t going to catch them by surprise.  It was a knock-down, drag-out, and we got it on.”

Last Saturday the Port Isabel freshmen team beat Mission Veterans, 58-39, and improves to 11-1 on the season.  The JV squad took its first loss of the season, 55-47, to Harlingen South and is now 6-1.

The head man said that all the players are really buying into the team concept of the game.  “They’re really understanding the concept.  It’s about winning and losing.  That’s what’s important.  It’s the total group effort – unselfish, find the open man.”

The Tarpons are on the road against La Villa this Friday afternoon and that will be their last game until after Christmas.  On Dec. 29 the team will face another opponent they’ve already played this season and that’s Brownsville Frontier Academy.  It’ll be the team’s first home game since Nov. 20.  Tip-off times for the JV and Varsity games at La Villa are 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

“We’re playing a team on the 29th that we beat by three points on their home floor,” Velarde said this week.  “We caught them a little by surprise and Brownsville Frontier will come in here looking for some revenge.  We want to be able to defend our home court.”

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