By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
It had been over a month since the Port Isabel Tarpons basketball team played a home game. Tuesday night the Tarpons took on a Brownsville Frontier Academy team they’d previously beaten at their place, 66-63. Port Isabel won again, 44-38, in what may have been the most exciting game played at Tarpon Gym this season.
In the first half it looked like the Tarpons would blow the Chargers right out of the gym as they took a 22-6 second-quarter lead. In the third quarter Brownsville Frontier turned up the heat and made five consecutive steals and came from 15 down (28-13) to tie the game up at 36 just inside the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
“We expected them to make a push and they did,” P.I. head coach Anthony Velarde said afterwards. “They stayed the course and a lot of credit goes to those kids.”
The Tarpons reclaimed the lead, 38-36, on a steal and driving lay-up by Fernie Lopez. Juan Muñiz made a short jumper; Jose Atkinson sank a pair of free throws, and that was a final, 44-38.
Lopez got five steals on the night and scored nine points. Juan Muñiz was the Tarpons’ leading scorer with 14 points. Jeremy Martinez hit three three-pointers and totaled 12 points. Jose Atkinson led the team with 11 rebounds.
The Tarpons grabbed a total of 32 rebounds for the game, including 22 defensive boards.
“I was just trying my best,” Lopez told the Press after the game. “I was just trying to step up and help my team out at the end.”
“We just had to play good defense,” senior guard Ed Landa said.“We got a little too happy with the lead and we … thought we had finished them.”
The Tarpons did not panic when the Chargers started making steals seemingly at will in the third quarter, and Coach Velarde didn’t even call time out at first.
“I let it play out. Had it been a district game I probably would have called a time-out a little quicker. The lead dwindled a little bit and I wanted to see how we would hold our composure.”
While the effort by the Tarpons remained strong the head coach was not satisfied with how his team responded to the change in defense by Brownsville. “They (Tarpons) got a little nonchalant bringing the ball up the floor … and they attacked and you can lose control very quickly. That’s why I called time-out … need to relax a little bit and regroup.”
“The boys came back,” Frontier head coach Jerry de la Garza said afterwards. “The shots didn’t go our way but I can live with the kids playing the way they did. Credit to the other team. They made their shots and were able to pull off the W.”
“Our goal is always to win,” Velarde said. “We played a tough opponent, did what we had to do, and came out with the W. We wanted to get some rust out today. After a long layover it’s tough.”
The Tarpons play their district-opening game this Saturday in Tarpon Gym. Raymondville will be the opponent and all three Tarpon and Lady Tarpon teams will be in action. Both gyms will be utilized; the Tarpons varsity will tip off at 12:30 p.m. and the Lady Tarpons varsity is scheduled to follow at 2 p.m.
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