By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
The La Feria Lions came to play, no doubt about it. In the end, they left Tarpon Gym on the short end of a 51-49 score at the hands of the Port Isabel Tarpons in the second District 32-4A game of the season for both teams.
The visiting Lions led by nine, 29-20, at the half. In the second half, the Tarpons stayed close and chipped away at La Feria’s lead. Kaiden Martinez pulled Port Isabel into a 39-all tie with a bucket inside the three-minute mark of the third quarter. Port Isabel led 41-39 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Tarpons played stifling defense and La Feria failed to score a point for seven-and-a-half minutes, spanning the third and fourth periods. Trailing 39-33 with 3:29 to go in the third, Port Isabel scored 11 unanswered points to take a 44-39 lead in the opening seconds of the final quarter.
It was a battle right to the end. Cole Pinkerton got two on a lay-up with a minute to play and the Tarpons’ lead was eight. La Feria fought back with six unanswered points and with 3.9 seconds showing on the clock, Dennis Lozano was fouled on the inbounds pass. He made the first free throw but the officials waved it off on a lane violation call. The Lions could not get off a good shot and that was a final, 51-49.
“Another great test,” head boys Varsity basketball coach Mike Hazelton said, as he folded and stacked the sideline chairs after the game. “They played very hard. It’s a district game – there’s not going to be any easy ones. It’s just the way it is.”
“We started off kinda’ slow,” Pinkerton said after the game. “We weren’t really in the game. The second half we really picked it up offensively and defensively. We started working more as a team.”
The first quarter was even at the end, 15-15. Jason Lowe set the home crowd to cheers with a slam dunk that brought Port Isabel within one, 12-13. The Lions led 29-20 at halftime, and Port Isabel led 41-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Hazelton was asked about the Lions’ scoring drought in the second half. He gave full credit to the team.
“I didn’t hold them scoreless – I don’t play! We switched our presses up (and played) defense.”
“It shows how we can be at our worst and how we can be at our best,” Pinkerton said afterwards. “It shows that we just don’t back down and we came back stronger in the second half. Coach Hazelton told us to wake up and we did what we had to do. We trust each other, never doubted each other.”
Pinkerton led the Tarpons with 15 points. Kaiden Martinez was next with 11 points, Daniel Rinza had nine points, and Dennis Lozano and Jason Lowe each put in six points. Lozano, Martinez, Villareal, and Pinkerton each made a three.
The Tarpons shot 10 for 18 at the stripe. Rinza was 3-3 at the line, and Pinkerton made six straight after missing his first two. La Feria made seven of nine foul shots.
“Couple things that we’ve got to go over at practice tomorrow,” Pinkerton said. “But a win’s a win. We’ll take it.”
Including last Friday’s 85-70 win at Raymondville, the Tarpons now stand 2-0 in district play.