By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel boys’ hoops squad put on a clinic in team basketball, as they cruised to a 72-36 win over the Raymondville Bearkats Tuesday night at Tarpon Gym.
It was the team’s second straight win, after a three-game losing streak dampened hopes for a district championship. Last Friday, January 24, also at home, the Tarpons beat Progreso, 63-41.
“They looked good,” head Tarpons basketball coach Mike Hazelton said after the game. “That other team plays hard and we kinda’ took the will out of them early. Everybody got in the game and contributed, and that’s always a good thing.”
Port Isabel led start-to-finish except for a 2-2 tie at the start. The Tarpons led 17-8 at the end of a quarter of play, 33-18 at the half, and 59-24 at the end of three.
The third quarter was the Tarpons’ best as they scored 26 points while holding the ‘Kats to 16.
If there was a “Play of the Day,” it could have been Gilbert Medina’s steal on a long inbounds pass from the east end of the court. He got it on the run, with the Raymondville-intended receiver right with him, and just continued on to score two on a layup. It was just one example of the kind of hustle and all-around effort the guys showed in this game.
“I just got moved up (to Varsity from JV) and I wanted to show what I could do,” Medina said after the game. “Two wins – we’ve got to win more to make the playoffs.”
“(Medina) came up last game,” Hazelton said of his sophomore Varsity newcomer. “He was playing well on the JV. He’s a good athlete and tonight he came through.”
With last night’s win, and a 63-41 win over Progreso at home last Friday, the Tarpons improved to 5-3 in district play. It was the 20th win of the season overall for the Tarpons. That’s three years in a row that PI has topped the 20-win mark. This is Hazelton’s third year at the helm of the program.
The Tarpons are now tied with Zapata for third place in the district standings, each with 5-3 records. They trail 8-0 Hidalgo and 6-2 Rio Hondo.
Against Progreso last week, Jason Lowe was the team’s leading scorer, with 16 points, and he made two blocks. Cole Pinkerton and Daniel Rinza each scored 15 points, and Pinkerton stole two balls. Josue Navarro had 20 rebounds against the Red Ants and blocked two shots. Dennis Lozano scored 12 points and made five steals.
The win gets Port Isabel the sweep of the season series with Raymondville. In the first game, at Raymondville, Port Isabel won 85-70. Senior Daniel Rinza was asked what the difference was between the two games.
“I think the difference was we came in with a better mindset. After losing three straight games we didn’t want to lose any-more. We’re just taking it one game at a time now. Our team ball is amazing at this point and we’re starting to click at the right time.”
“Everyone played together,” Cole Pinkerton said. My shots weren’t falling tonight but my teammates’ were. It was just great defense and offense all around, and it was a good game overall.”
“We played great team ball tonight,” Kaiden Martinez said afterwards. “Everyone was sharing the ball. We knew what they had since the last game, so coming into this game we knew who we had to shut down. We got it done.”
They certainly did just that. The hustle and general teamwork was amazing and Raymondville never seemed to get in sync.
Daniel Rinza led the scoring for the home team with 18 points, including a pair of threes. Sophomore Gilbert Medina, scored 15 points, including a three. Dennis Lozano was hot from three-point range, making four three-point shots, and totaling 14 points. Kaiden Martinez put in 13 points, including a three-pointer. Martinez also got a three-point play, in the third quarter, when he made a steal, was fouled on his shot, then sank the free throw.
Martinez led the team in rebounds with 11 and also had two steals, two assists and a block. Cole Pinkerton, Rinza, and Medina also stole the ball twice during the game, and Rinza pulled down eight boards.
Tarpon shooters went to the free throw line only seven times all night and made nine of 13 shots for 69 percent.
The team is at La Feria this Friday for the rematch with the Lions, then it’s a road game with RGC-Grulla next Tuesday, February 4.
A week from this Friday the Tarpons will get the much-anticipated rematch with Hidalgo and that’ll be in Tarpon Gym. In the first game, on January 14, Hidalgo won 58-52. Port Isabel won 51-49 against La Feria at Tarpon Gym on January 7.