Harlandale reaches consolation championship
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Harlandale, Highlands, McCollum, South San, Southwest.
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South San hadn’t confronted any adversity before its tournament began. Highlands, on the other hand, hadn’t seen much else in the early stages of this young season.
The 75th annual South San ISD Tournament presented each with the opportunity to venture into the crucible and leave seemingly as stronger teams than they had been.
That, obviously, was the case for Highlands (4-8), which won its first three games in Texas’ oldest continuous tournament and finished fourth among 24 teams. South San (7-1), undefeated through four games, endured its first loss but finished with another winning streak.
Highlands began the tournament Dec. 4 with an 87-57 rout of Eagle Pass. The Owls continued the surge to defeat 2013-14 regional semifinalist Harlingen South 77-67 and defending District 29-4A champion Floresville 72-70.
“This has been a good tournament for us,” Highlands coach Rufus Lott said. “It’s been a great experience. There are a lot of good teams here and a lot of different styles of play.”
South San won its last three games, including a buzzer-beating 44-41 overtime win over Texas Military Institute in the fifth-place game. The Bobcats’ only loss came against Floresville 63-55 Dec. 5 in their tournament opener.
Against TMI, neither team had scored for more than eight minutes when Bobcats wing Curtis Allen caught a pass from senior point guard Olando Lopez (16 points) in the left corner. Allen, fading away slightly, sank the three-point shot with 2.5 seconds left in overtime.
“What better way to win a game than in the last second?,” South San coach Ray Carroll said. “I’m so happy for our guys. They’ve gotten off to a really good start this year.”
Harlandale also fared well in the three-day tournament, finishing as the runner-up in the consolation bracket.
The Indians lost 63-43 to Antonian Dec. 6 in the consolation championship, but were within two at halftime. Ryan Blanquiz led the Indians with 14 points and senior leader Ram Torres scored nine. Their only other loss was 67-57 to MacArthur Dec. 4 in their first tourney game.
“We’ve had a great start to the season,” Harlandale coach Chris Adamek said. “With only Jesus (Maltos) and Ram back, all the younger players have done a very good job of stepping up their play. We’ve been facing some good competition.”
The area’s other tournament entries, Southwest (5-3) and McCollum (6-5), each won their final consolation-bracket games.
Highlands had tackled a murderous schedule prior to the tournament. Complicating matters further, the Owls top two 2013-14 scorers have been out of the picture. DeMarcus Hartfield transferred to TMI and JerMichael Shirley broke his leg this fall.
The Owls couldn’t hit shots early in their 72-52 loss to New Braunfels in the third-place game. They finished strong, though, outscoring the Unicorns 20-10 in the final quarter. Lamar Sterling scored 12 of his 21 points in the quarter. Christopher Hartfield scored 11.
“We had a few kids missing to take the SAT and ACT (tests),” Lott said. “That hurts a little bit when you’re trying to play an uptempo, pressure game.
“I’m pleased with how far we’ve come so far. We’ve played some of the better teams in the city. We have a lot of inexperience and that’s hurt us finishing games.”
After the loss to Floresville, South San regrouped to smash Corpus Christi Flour Bluff 61-44 Dec. 5 and Warren 64-37 behind 28 from Allen. Lopez and Allen combined for 43 points against Flour Bluff.
Arthur Rangel scored 13 points against TMI.
“We struggled with Floresville,” Carroll said. “After that, I had a conversation with the players. I told them, ‘People will judge you by how you respond to this. I asked them to bounce back, and they won three games and (fifth place).”
MORE TO COME