By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Tarpons hoops team continued its winning ways Tuesday night as it hung on at the end and won at Santa Maria, 51-49.
It went down to the final buzzer. With P.I. leading by two, 51-49, Santa Maria went for the win with a three-point shot, which was off the mark. The two-point follow-up, at the buzzer, went in but was waved off by the official.
According to head P.I. coach, Mike Hazelton, the call may have been in error. Hazelton said he thought the ball left the shooter’s hand a split-second before the buzzer sounded, but there is no changing a call, right or wrong, with an instant replay review. There is no such provision in the high school rule book.
The Tarpons fell into a bit of a hole at the start and Santa Maria led 17-8 at the end of a quarter of play.
“They started hitting shots and we couldn’t hit anything,” Hazelton said Wednesday morning.
The Tarpons came on in the second quarter and were within five points, 27-22, at the half.
“We tipped one in at the buzzer and cut it to five.”
Port Isabel stayed close in the second half and the bench played a key role in the final outcome.
“The bench got involved a lot,” Hazelton said. “They did a great job bringing energy off the bench.”
“I told them we were going to play in two-minute shifts – every two minutes, to keep them fresh. Then Fredy Martinez came off the bench and hit a three, and that was our first lead (since the first quarter) of the game.” That play came late in the third quarter.
“I think we had about a five-point lead for most of the fourth quarter. Then we just held on for life and it was a frantic last minute. There was a big steal by Cole Pinkerton on one of the last possessions of the game.”
Daniel Rinza led P.I. in scoring with 12 points. Dennis Lozano was the other Tarpon in double figures with 10 points. Zaid Calderon made two big three pointers down the stretch to key the winning effort.
New bleachers were being installed in Santa Maria’s main gym so the game was played in their junior high gym.
“It was a different environment for them (P.I. players).” Hazelton said. “It looked like an old “Happy Days” gym, wooden bleachers on both sides. It’s a neat little gym but it was a little dark in there. There was a good little crowd in there and it was noisy, but you have to overcome that stuff.”
“They’ve got a good program, they’re a good team, and they play hard.”
“It was a good win but I know we could have played a lot better,” Tarpon senior Daniel Rinza said before classes Wednesday morning. “It was a sloppy win but I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.”
The Tarpons won at Lyford last Friday, 61-45, and are now 11-4 on the season. Cole Pinkerton led the team with 17 points, all in the second half, at Lyford, and Jason Lowe had 14 points.
The team will be at PSJA Memorial this Friday and will be off next week for Christmas until its appearance in the Kingsville Tournament next weekend. That’ll be a two day event starting Friday, December 27. The Tarpons will play their district opener on January 3rd at Raymondville. They’ll return home to Tarpon Gym on Tuesday, January 7, for a court date with La Feria.