KINGSVILLE — With under a minute left to play in the contest, San Perlita Trojans head coach Nataniel Garza called a timeout and subbed out seniors Cameron Chappell, Noah Ortiz and Daniel Garza to a standing ovation.
One by one Coach Garza hugged each player and thanked them for not only for their effort, but for setting a new standard of excellence for the school’s basketball program.
While the Trojans lost to the Port Aransas Marlins 77-48 in their Class 2A quarterfinals matchup, as Coach Garza said the trip to the third round of the playoffs set a new precedent for what’s expected from the program from here on out.
“We play extremely hard and the boys were ready, we just faced a very tough state-ranked Port Aransas team,” said Garza. “We gave it everything we had, but unfortunately we didn’t shoot the ball well and we fell a bit short.
“But I’m very proud of my kids because we came out and played from buzzer to buzzer and we gave it everything we had, and I couldn’t have asked more from my kids.”
From the inception of the game, the sixth-ranked Marlins displayed their offensive fire power and quickly jumped out on a 14-3 lead over the Trojans. Port Aransas quickly turned the 11-point lead into a 17-point advantage as the Marlins looked almost unstoppable at times.
At the end of the first with a 25-8 lead, Port Aransas kept hitting baskets as San Perlita struggled and found their night going from bad to worse in a hurry.
Just before the half, Jaime Zaller lifted the Trojan fan base’s spirits with a three pointer to cut into the Marlins’ lead. Nevertheless, Port Aransas still managed to open up a 24-point lead at the half.
“I think we came out a little bit robotic in the first half and gave them too much respect because of their ranking,” said Garza. “At the half I told them to just take a deep breath play their game and execute, and I thought we came out in the third period and did a good job.”
The Trojans found a rhythm in the third and scored 15 points in the period after being held to just 17 in the first half.
However, the Marlins still managed to outscore the Trojans 18-15 in the third and 18-16 in the fourth.
For the Marlins, junior Zach Browns had a game-high 31 points and teammate Devin Pate added 22.
San Perlita finished the game with one player in double digits as Noah Ortiz finished the game with a team-high 10 points. Meanwhile, Victor Galvan had nine, and both Zeller and Julian Herrera contributed with eight points each.
Next season the Trojans are expected to have 11 returning players and Coach Garza said he expects big things from the bunch.
“We are very young and are returning 11 out of the 14 players,” he said. “This program had never been three deep in the playoffs as a 2A conference. We had a heck of a season and what I’m most happy about is that now we have set a new expectation moving forward.
“These kids never thought we’d be able to make it to the third round and now they see that we can, and now this is the minimum expectation for next year.”