HARLINGEN — With temperatures dipping below freezing on Tuesday evening, Harlingen South and Harlingen heated things up with their first Bird Bowl meeting this season.
Both teams entered the evening with one loss in league play and needed a win to keep pace in District 32-6A play.
The Cardinals took the right step forward with a 62-58 win against the Hawks. Junior point guard Michael Arellano netted a game high 19 points and helped direct the Cardinals to their fifth district win of the season.
“We knocked down our shots in the third quarter and our kids came out ready to play against a very good South team,” said Harlingen coach Greg Yates. “South is a very talented team. They hit some threes down the stretch and made it close, but lucky for us we had some strong inside play and made plays in transition.”
At the break, Harlingen led 29-23 with Arellano leading all scorers with 14 first-half points. Harlingen began the second half with strong play from Arellano, who weaved through the Hawks defense and gave the Cards a 38-29 lead midway through the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, it was Jeremy Vasquez who helped put the game on ice with an 11 point quarter.
“This is a big win for us. The environment was electric; almost all of Harlingen was here tonight,” Arellano said. “We passed the ball well and hit shots in the second half and I came through for my team. I like the spotlight on a big stage, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and we got it done tonight.”
Harlingen South, meanwhile, is at a crossroads and has dropped back-to-back conference games after a 4-0 start.
The Hawks (4-2) host Los Fresnos (6-0) on Friday as they wrap up the first round of district play.
“We knew it was going to be hard to win tonight against a tough Harlingen team at their place,” said Harlingen South coach Brian Molina. “I’m proud of the kids’ effort. I thought they fought hard all night long. In this district it’s going to be hard so I told the kids to keep playing hard and we’re hoping to bounce back on Friday.”
The Hawks were able to cut into the lead late on multiple occasions in the fourth quartet, but could not seem to get out of their own way with late turnovers and the inability to hit late free throws.
“This has been our Achilles heel all year, missing free throws, and turning over the ball late in games and giving up key offensive rebounds in crucial moments,” said Molina. “But, hey, credit goes to Harlingen. They played hard and played well, and they did what it took to win the game.”
In the loss, Aaron Briones led the Hawks with 16 points, Chanz Love scored 15 and Sean Turrubiates finished with 14.