There was no one who dazzled the crowd more this past basketball season than Santa Rosa’s Leo Lara.
Every night he stepped on the court, Warriors fans were intrigued with his high-flying dunking abilities as he helped deliver win after win for Santa Rosa.
On the season Lara averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals as he guided the Warriors to the Class 3A state tournament. So it’s no wonder that he was named the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR MVP.
“It feels great knowing that my hard work has paid off and this season was a memorable one,” said Lara. “These past four years have been a great experience playing under Coach Cipriano and I’m going to miss being a Warrior.”
In his time at Santa Rosa, Lara was a part of four district championships and several deep playoff runs with this past season being the best.
The 2016-17 campaign ended with a trip to the state final four tournament in which the Warriors lost to the eventual state champion Dallas Madison Trojans.
Lara has achieved numerous accolades in his basketball career, most notably being a part of the 32-3A All-District Academic first team and all- state first team the past two seasons.
Leo has definitely left behind a legacy at Santa Rosa, which head coach Juan Cipriano knows will be some big shoes to fill.
“I’ve loved my experience working with Leo because he’s very respectful and a likeable person,” Cipriano said. “When you have a kid like that with the natural ability he has, it makes him special.”
“People always ask me if I’ll probably ever have another Leo Lara and I don’t think I ever will. I’m going to miss him very much and I’m sure he’ll miss the program as well.”
Lara desires to pursue a degree in kinesiology with hopes of one day becoming the head coach of his own basketball program.
COACH OF THE YEAR: This past season, there was no other Valley hoops team that had success like the Santa RosaWarriors.
The Warriors accomplished a long list of their goals during the season with the first being crowned District 32-3A champions.
Finishing the district season with an undefeated 8-0 record, the Warriors continued to win out in the playoffs reaching the state tournament.
The Warriors then fell to the Dallas Madison Trojans and finished the season with an overall 34-4 record.
Reaching the final four for the second time in school history adds another milestone to head coach Juan Cipriano’s resume and for that he’s been named the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Coach of the Year.
“It was a big accomplishment what we were able to do this year as a program,” he said. “But I don’t come into every season thinking about earning rewards, so we just focus on what we have to do on the court and the rest takes care of itself.”
“What made this season so special was that the kids were already motivated from the beginning. Immediately after the loss last year to AransasPass they worked hard with the return to state in mind and they were able to achieve that goal. I’m extremely proud of the way these kids performed this year and what they went through to accomplish their goal.”
During the year the Warrior’s crushed the competition in District 32-3A by defeating opponents by a mere 40 points each game.
This season marked Cipriano’s 16th with the Warriors and in that time he’s accumulated a long list of achievements.
During his run, the program has won 13 straight district titles, made the playoffs 15 times and, most importantly, made it to the state tournament twice.
With Cipriano at the helm the Warriors will always be a force to reckoned with due to his coaching philosophies and methods.
VMS ALL-STAR BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
Leo Lara, Santa Rosa
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jalen Morrell, La Feria
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Noah Perez, Harlingen South
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Michael Arellano, Harlingen High
COACH OF THE YEAR
Johnny Cipriano, Santa Rosa
Aaron Briones, Harlingen South
Brandon Bennett, Harlingen South
Matt Garcia, Santa Rosa
Monico Prado, Santa Rosa
Billy Watson, La Feria
AB Lozoya, Santa Rosa
Jonah Agado, Santa Rosa
Julian Trevino, La Feria
Matthew Sesler, Harlingen High
Andre Ibarra, Lyford