After an impressive 30-5 2014-2015 season, it came to nobody’s surprise that the Harlingen Lady Cardinals found a way to one-up themselves this season.
With a returning cast of star-studded players, Harlingen managed to dish out a 36-2 record this year and had four members land on this years Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR team. But La Feria’s senior duo also racked up a litany of accolades for the Lionettes, grabbing La Feria both Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
When the clock hit zero and the Lady Cardinals lost their second game of season to the Weslaco Lady Panthers in the third round of the Class 6A playoffs, nobody felt more pain than Co-MVPs Sami Quilantan and Marissa Gasca.
This season the two combined for 813 points, with Quilantan scoring 432 points, 177 rebounds, 194 steals and 101 assists. Gasca, on the other hand, scored 381 points, pulled down 133 rebounds, 136 steals, and had 124 assists.
Not bad considering three other Harlingen players scored more than 270 points as well.
“The past two years they just came out, worked hard and the girls just followed their lead,” said Harlingen head coach Ashley Moncivaiz of Quilantan and Gasca. “They came out and competed and just made basketball fun, and that was one thing these girls were able to portray on the court and off the court, and that’s what everybody loved about them.
“The two competed on both sides of the ball and it didn’t matter who they went up against and who they guarded because they had that confidence, drive and the passion.”
“They have a lot of heart. When they see the young kids come out and watch them and be around them they get drawn into being role models. For them it’s not always about basketball, if they can put a smile on the younger kid’s faces then they would rather do that.”
Beyond the game, many don’t know that for the past five years both Gasca and Quilantan have volunteered for the Boys & Girls Club. The two host annual basketball workshops that help kids learn the fundamentals of the game.
Freshman Arial Leal might not have been a staple on the Lady Cardinals when the season began, but she was when it was all said and done.
Leal, who attends Dr. Cano Freshman Academy, beat out senior Elvira Fraga midway through the season for the starting stop and was an integral part of Moncivaiz’s plans.
A big step up, considering Fraga still managed to score 300 points this season.
“She (Leal) is a player that can just go out there and it didn’t matter who the combinations were,” said Moncivaiz. “She was fearless on the court and just fed off what the seniors were doing. She’s young and she’s having to come here and learn all these new things that are going on at this level.
“She can handle the ball, she can shoot, and she helped out in big games. Watching her from where she started to having her start in every playoff game, she’s a competitor and she’s going to do what she needs to do to help the team.”
For La Feria head coach Angel Martinez, having Illiana Ayala and Camryn Lopez on the team was “huge.”
On the defensive end, Ayala was a two-time back-to-back (2015 & 2016) District 32-4A Defensive Player of The Year, who averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and six steals per game.
“Illiana is a four-year letterman who has worked hard every year and makes our defense go,” said Martinez. “Illiana is the center of our defense and it’s very apparent that when she is off the court our team loses a step defensively.
“She went all out 100 percent every game and she pretty much led the team in points, steals and rebounds.”
Offensively, Camryn Lopez was District 32-4A’s 2016 Offensive Player of the Year, was selected to the RGV All-Star Showcase, averaged 12 points per game, four rebounds and 3.5 steals.
“Camryn had a rough start but she came around,” said Martinez. “She was the type of player where defenses always had to know where she was because before you know, she would already have four three pointers on you.
“Everybody knew ‘this was the girl that was going to hurt us if you leave her alone.’”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Harlingen’s Ashley Moncivaiz claimed this year’s All-STAR Coach of The Year.
In just two seasons as head coach of the Lady Cardinals Moncivaiz has racked up an impressive 66-7 record.
She was also named this years District 32-6A coach of the year after guiding the Lady Cardinals to the Regional Quarterfinals before falling to Weslaco.
In 2000 Moncivaiz was named the sophomore of the year by the Valley Morning star when she averaged 9.7 points per game, 6 assists per gam, 3.9 rebounds per game and 3.9 steals.
VMS All-STAR First Team
School: Harlingen High
>> 9.7 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game
School: Rio Hondo
>> 12.3 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, 2.9 steals per game, 4.8 assists per game
>> 32-3A MVP, 10 points per game, 11 rebounds, 3 steals per game
School: Harlingen South
>> 10.3 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 2.6 steals per game
School: Harlingen High
>> 9.4 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 2.0 steals per game
>> 14 points per game, 6 assists per game, 5 rebounds per game, 5 steals per game
SCHOOL: San Benito
>> 12.75 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 5 steals
SCHOOL: Harlingen South
>> 8.6 points per game, 1.4 assists per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 1.8 steals per game
SCHOOL: Harlingen high
>> 8.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 1.1 steals per game
SCHOOL: La Feria
>> 9.5 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, 1.5 steals per game
Gabby Gomez: San Perlita
Lorena Ayala: San Perlita
Rudie Joe Garcia: La Villa
Ruby Mireles: La Villa
Myah Salas: La Feria
Alexis Rodriguez: Rio Hondo
Mireya Cervantes: Raymondville
Christina Montez: Harlingen South