By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Tarpons basketball team got its first district win of the season Tuesday night. The final score was 71-57 and it came on the road in a rematch with Raymondville.
“We’re looking at the second half of district as a new season,” first-year head coach Anthony Velarde said Wednesday. “So we’re 1-0 in the second half.”
In the district opener for both teams, Raymondville beat the Tarpons, 50-49, in Tarpon Gym back on Jan. 2.
The Tarpons led from start to finish and took a seven point lead, 24-17, into the second quarter. They were up 41-32 at the half and led 61-44 at the end of the third quarter.
“I really felt like, last night, the guys worked hard to work as a team,” Velarde said. “They moved the ball around and got some open looks.”
“We talked a lot on Saturday … about doing some of the little things, but really getting back to being unselfish, on defense and on offense. We made a recommitment to doing those things.”
The Bearkats tried to stay close to the Tarpons by going to the three-point shot. “They hit some three-point shots early and they were able to shoot some from pretty far out there.”
The Tarpons did not panic or stray from the game plan. “We let them take some of those shots and we focused on getting rebounds. And we were patient enough on offense where we were able to get some three’s, too.”
Port Isabel was also able to control the boards as the team out-rebounded Raymondville at both ends of the court. The Tarpons took down 23 defensive and 12 offensive rebounds.
Fernie Lopez led the team in scoring with 25 points, including four three-pointers, and made all nine of his free three attempts. Jose Atkinson scored 21 points and led the Tarpons with six steals. Jeremy Martinez had 10 points, grabbed six rebounds, and got three steals. Nick Carillo put up eight points and blocked a shot.
The ‘Kats tried to come back in the second half and narrowed the gap to 11 points in the third quarter, but that was as close as they could get.
It’s always good to get a win,” Velarde said. “That’s what we’re here for. The attitude has been great. I really love the refocus and the resolve that we showed.”
The team’s free throw percentage is improving. As a team the Tarpons made 18 of 39 attempts from the line, but one Tarpon was only five for 17 at the stripe. The rest of the team shot a combined 13 for 22.
The freshmen team won, 59-36, and the JV squad went down, 39-29. At Rio Hondo last Friday, the freshmen lost 39-37, and the JV Tarpons fell, 59-54. The former are now 4-3 in district play and the latter stand 4-4.
The team returns to Tarpon Gym for this Friday’s game with Grulla, who beat the Tarpons in the first game, 66-52, back on Jan. 5.
“We’re going to have to grow really tall between now and then,” Velarde said when asked how he was going to prepare the team for the Gators. “They’re pretty tall and very athletic. They like to push the pace, as we do.
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