BY CLAIRE CRUZ |
HARLINGEN — The Harlingen High Cardinals rode a nine-game win streak into their non-district matchup against McAllen Memorial, but the Mustangs cooled down the red-hot Cardinals to earn a 73-65 victory Tuesday night.
Seniors forward Josh Sanchez and guard Chris Flores put forth sensational efforts to lead Memorial. Sanchez was dominant in the paint and Flores drove through the Cardinals defense with ease and showcased his smooth shot from all over the floor.
“(Josh and Chris), they’re in charge,” Memorial head coach Sam Cortez said. “I tell them everything goes through them. They’re my captains and we’re going to go as far as they take us.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening minutes of the contest, but Memorial found an edge by forcing Harlingen into foul trouble early. Though poor free-throw shooting was a theme throughout the night for both teams, the Mustangs managed to convert enough opportunities to gain a lead.
The Cardinals were getting beat down low and overwhelmed by McAllen Memorial’s tenacious defense in the first half, sparking head coach Greg Yates to make several changes during halftime.
“We needed to put a little more pressure and change our lineup a little bit,” Yates said. “We had to make things happen and we made some shots down the stretch, but every time they had an answer for it.”
Harlingen came out of the locker room on a mission and improved its shooting efficiency and play in the paint tremendously, led by the efforts of senior center Matthew Sesler and junior forward Kameryn Gonzalez.
Midway through the third quarter Gonzales scored on a hard layup and drew the and-1 call, which he failed to convert. But his missed free throw was rebounded by Sesler who drew a foul himself and finished the three-point play to give the Cardinals a 35-34 lead.
Later in the third with the score tied at 37, Sanchez and Flores combined for a game-changing series of their own. Flores hit a huge three and led a great defensive effort for the Mustangs, setting up two strong offensive possessions that Sanchez capped off with scores to put Memorial back on top for good.
“It’s a big win for us and we’re proud of it,” Sanchez said. “I’m really impressed with the way our team is coming together. I’m in there to get the boards and Chris does the rest, and I think it’s all coming together and we’re executing well.”