In many sports, defense is a key part to achieving success. And for the Harlingen South Hawks, Noah Perez was their defensive specialist.

Given the task of guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player, Perez helped the Hawks reach the area round of the playoffs where they lost to the McAllen High Bulldogs.

On the season, Perez averaged 11 points, 3 steals, 4 assists and 2 rebounds per game and was named the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Defensive Player of the Year.

“You know for the past four years I’ve focused primarily on training for defense so to receive this award is an honor,” Perez said. “I’m grateful for this season and to be apart of this team. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Hawks head coach Brian Molina spoke very highly of his defensive leader.

“Noah was the tip of the sword when it came to our defense. He was the one that predicated how we were going to guard people,” Molina said. “The thing most people don’t know about Noah is that he was so unselfish and willing to do anything to help this team win.”

Although Perez was specifically used for defensive purposes, he came up big for South when the Hawks faced Edinburg High in the bi-district round.

In the last few seconds of the contest, Perez sank the game-winning basket that allowed South to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Leaving behind a terrific 16-17 campaign, Perez will ultimately remember the knowledge he acquired from Coach Molina.

“I’ve learned that attitude and effort are the keys to not only winning basketball games, but achieving success in anything else,” Perez said. “CoachMo taught me a lot, but I will miss everything about playing for South. It was a dream come true.”

Molina, in turn, said the Hawks will miss him next season.

“It’ll be tough to replace a player like Noah because he was a great leader for this team,” he said. “Now Noah is the standard and I tell my upcoming players that he depicted what it is to be basketball player here at Harlingen South.”

Perez wishes to pursue a degree in either biology to become a teacher or kinesiology to study sports medicine.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior JalenMorrell led the way for the La Feria Lions in the 2016-17 basketball season as he helped them to a perfect 10-0 league record along with the District 32-4A crown.

The Lions’ playoff journey was cut short by the Sinton Pirates in the bi-district round, a game in which Morrell scored the last bucket of the season.

Averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals per game, Morrell proved to be the anchor for the Lions all season and for his efforts was named the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Offensive Player of the Year.

“It feels good. I’d like to thank God first and foremost because without him none of this would’ve been possible,” said Morrell. “I’d also like to thank the coaches, my teammates and my family for believing in me all year long. It was a great season.”

In his time as a Lion, Morrell helped the team capture back-to-back district championships and head coach Dario Sanchez will surely miss the four-year letterman.

“It’s been an honor working with him throughout the years. We’ve developed a great bond and it’s difficult to let a kid like him go,” Sanchez said. “Jalen was of tremendous value to us whenever we needed a basket, a rebound or a defensive stop he was the guy to get it done for us.”

Morrell was equally as fond of Sanchez.

“Coach Sanchez served as a second father to me and not only helped me become a better basketball player, but a better man as well,” he said. “It was nothing but positive energy the whole time. We worked well together and we had a good little bond.”

When asked what he’ll miss most about Lion basketball, Morrell simply stated: “The games.”

“I’m going to miss that game day feeling; the rush that comes from anticipating what could happen,” he said. “Also, the relief afterward from experiencing a win; I’ll miss those two things from the game.”

Morrell wishes to pursue a degree in biology and one day become a radiologist.

VMS ALL-STAR BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM

MVP

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

FIRST TEAM

Aaron Briones, Harlingen South

Brandon Bennett, Harlingen South

Matt Garcia, Santa Rosa

Monico Prado, Santa Rosa

Billy Watson, La Feria

SECOND TEAM

AB Lozoya, Santa Rosa

Jonah Agado, Santa Rosa

Julian Trevino, La Feria

Matthew Sesler, Harlingen High

Andre Ibarra, Lyford