By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
The 2021 season has come to an end for the Port Isabel Tarpon Basketball squad. They dropped a hard-fought game to Boerne, 68-55, in the regional semi-final contest Tuesday night in Corpus Christi.
The loss followed two playoff wins last week, the second of which, a 95-70 win over Crystal City, moved Port Isabel into the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time in program history. That was Saturday, also in Corpus Christi. Previously, Thursday night, in Alice, the Tarpons hung on for a 69-60 victory against Young Men’s Leadership Academy of San Antonio in the area round of the postseason.
Boerne got off to a fast start against the Tarpons. Senior Greyhound player Ben Phillip made five three-pointers in the first quarter, and Boerne led 21-7 at the start of the second quarter. The Tarpons began to find the range in the second quarter, but Boerne led by 17, 35-18, at the half.
“We knew he (Phillip) could shoot,” head Port Isabel basketball coach Mike Hazelton told the Press Wednesday. “We were guarding him and he was still making them.”
Port Isabel appeared to have a completely different game plan in the second half, and the Greyhounds seemed to be having trouble getting the ball inside.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and we started playing man-to-man defense in the second half,” Hazelton said.”
The Tarpons cut the deficit to 15 by the end of the third quarter and trailed 48-33 at that point. P.I. twice got within 11 points of the lead in the second half but that was as close as the Tarpons could get, and that was a final, 68-55. In a losing cause, Port Isabel scored more than twice as many points in the second half as they did in the first.
Daniel Zamarron led PI Tuesday with 11 points and Will Camacho and Kaiden Martinez each scored nine. Martinez and Camacho each made a three-pointer.
Against Crystal City Martinez led the Tarpons in scoring with 21 points and his 11 rebounds gave him a double-double. Three other Tarpons scored in double figures; Daniel Zamarron put in 19 points, Cole Pinkerton had a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists, and Gilbert Medina scored 15 points.
In the area round win over SAYMLA, Will Camacho led the team with 18 points. Gilbert Medina was next with 14 points, Cole Pinkerton had 13, and Daniel Zamarron put up 12.
It has been quite a run with fourth-year head coach Mike Hazelton. In his first season as the head man, 2018-’19, Port Isabel made the third round of the playoffs for the first time in program history, and advanced as far again last season. Twice along the way the team broke the school record for wins in a season. And this year the Tarpons scored their first district title since 1990. For these four seasons Port Isabel posted an overall record of 88-43, including 7-4 in the playoffs.
“They cracked that level,” Hazelton said Wednesday. “They went further than any team in program history.”
Seniors Cole Pinkerton, Camacho, and Aaron Villareal have played their final games as Port Isabel Tarpons.
A solid core of players will return for next season. These include juniors Joey Ricco, Gilbert Medina, Daniel Zamarron, Luis Martinez, and Kaiden Martinez. And current freshman Jeffrey Smith will come back with a year of Varsity experience behind him.
Four-year Varsity man, Pinkerton, summed it all up.
“The Port Isabel basketball program was not highly regarded years ago,” Pinkerton said. “To have been a part of the history we’ve made these past four years is a source of pride and satisfaction for me and all the guys.”