SAN BENITO — Anytime Harlingen and San Benito lock horns, the two don’t disappoint. And Friday was no different.
In front of a large crowd divided by purple and red, it was the Cardinals who prevailed 71-53 thanks to a strong second half led by Jeremy Vasquez.
“Our kids did a good job tonight,” said Harlingen coach Greg Yates. “I had surgery yesterday, a little medical issue, so I was out the last few days, but my assistants did an excellent job preparing the kids for tonight.”
In the first half, the Cards found themselves in foul trouble and let an early lead slip away in the second quarter. San Benito’s Aaron Medrano caused fits for the Cards all evening long and kept the Hounds within striking distance and eventually helped them take a 31-29 lead at the break. Medrano finished with a team high 19 points.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Harlingen’s Jeremy Vasquez caught fire and scored 11 points in the second half and helped fuel an 8-0 run in the third quarter that pushed the Cards’ lead to 58-47.
“It’s a tough game, especially in San Benito because it’s a tough environment to play in,” Vasquez said. “All week the coaches told us to keep focused and not get distracted. This win for us is big, especially against San Benito.”
In the third quarter, Harlingen outscored San Benito 17-12 and 25-10 in the fourth quarter. Junior Michael Arellano netted a game high 22 points while Kameryn Gonzalez scored 11.
“We did not overlook San Benito; we knew they were capable of doing some things. They took Harlingen South to double overtime,” said Yates. “We were down in the first half because of foul trouble. We had to sit Jeremy because of foul trouble and he is one of our better players, and when you lose him it’s tough.
“In the second half, we got the ball inside and executed our offense, once we did that, we were able to get some easy buckets inside and got to the free-throw line.”
With the win, Harlingen improves its district record to 4-1 and will now prepare for the Bird Bowl on Tuesday. Harlingen South meanwhile fell to Brownsville Rivera and is also 4-1 in league play.
In the loss San Benito’s Jacob Sauceda scored 12 points and Ryan Reza finished with 11 on the night. The Hounds will wrap up the first round of district play with a road game on Friday night at 6 at Los Fresnos.
Yates is no stranger to San Benito: For 10 years Yates coached football and basketball at San Benito. Yates also once coached current San Benito head coach Eddie Abrego. From 1987 to 1997 Yates patrolled the San Benito sidelines and in his last year he served as the offensive coordinator under Tommy Roberts.
“It’s great to come back and see old friends,” Yates said. “A lot of the fans came up and said hello. I have a lot of ties here in San Benito.”