By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Tarpons were eliminated from the 2020 Texas high school basketball playoffs, 77-47, at the hands of the Pleasanton Eagles Tuesday night, March 3, in Kingsville.
The Eagles came in with 33 wins. They controlled the opening tip and scored first on a free throw. Port Isabel’s Daniel Rinza canned a shot and the score was 3-2, Pleasonton. That was the Tarpons’ only points of the first quarter, and the Eagles led 20-2 at the start of the second period.
“We got down early in the game and it would have been easy to roll over,” Port Isabel head basketball coach Mike Hazelton said afterwards. “They came back and made a game of it.”
A three-pointer gave the Eagles a 23-point lead, 27-4, a minute into the second quarter. Port Isabel then went on a 20-6 run and pulled within nine, 33-24, on Cole Pinkerton’s three just before the half. Kaiden Martinez hit a three a few minutes into the third quarter and the Tarpons were within one, 35-34. It was all Eagles after that.
They hit three straight threes to go up 44-34, and just kept going. The Eagles led 58-38 halfway through the final quarter, then 77-42 with a minute to play. Hazelton cleared the bench, Luis Martinez scored the final points of the night on a put-back, and that was a final, 77-47.
The team will lose three seniors to graduation this spring. Those seniors, Jason Lowe, Dennis Lozano and Rinza, shared their thoughts after it was all over.
“We were a great group – these guys are my brothers,” Lowe told the Press. “I loved playing with these guys and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“Win or lose, I still had fun this season,” Lozano said. “We played hard.”
“They’re a great team, No.15 in the state for a reason,” Lozano said. “We just didn’t give up – fight through all that adversity.”
“All these memories that I made – all three teams, starting my sophomore year,” Rinza said after the game. “I had a heck of a three years.”
The Tarpons made it to this third-round playoff game with a 53-50 win over Devine last Friday, February 28, at Calallen. With under two minutes left in regulation, Port Isabel led by six, 48-42. Devine scored eight straight points, the last six on three-pointers, to knot the score at 50 and send the game into overtime. Only three points were scored in the extra period, all by Port Isabel. Devine missed a three as time ran out, Lozano grabbed a huge rebound, and the Tarpons advanced with a 53-50 win.
The No.1 seed from District 32-4A, Hidalgo, advanced with a 36-35 win over La Vernia, also last Tuesday night, at Alice.
On the way out of town, we stopped at a Whataburger, and the victorious Eagles came in just after we got there. I visited with senior big man, Dalton Hobbs, and Pleasanton Eagles head basketball coach, Ricardo Marquez.
“We play a fast game, try to get them tired in the first half,” Hobbs said. “That was our game plan going in, just to run as fast as we can.”
Hobbs scored 19 points for the Eagles. Santiago Arguijo led all scorers with 28 points, and RJ Marquez put up 15 for the winning team. Daniel Rinza led the Tarpons with 18 points and Kaiden Martinez scored 15.
“Hats off to Coach Hazelton,” Marquez told the Press. “Their players went in there and they hustled. They’re aggressive.”
So, the 2019-’20 hoops season ends with a crash for a Tarpons team that achieved program firsts three years in a row. With the team’s bi-district win over Kingsville King last week, the Tarpons broke the school record for wins in a season for the second straight year with their 27th victory. Two years ago, they became the first team in program history to advance to the third round of the playoffs.
Most of the team is scheduled to return next year. It has been a great three-year run for this program under third-year head basketball coach Hazelton. Look for next year’s team to mount a serious run at the district championship. Thanks, guys, for giving it all you had, and see you next year.