Cardinals’ comeback bid falls short against Panthers

HARLINGEN — District 32-6A has arguably been one of the toughest in the Valley this season and on Tuesday it showed.

Weslaco High entered its game against Harlingen High in need of a win to keep its playoff hopes alive while the Cardinals were looking to rebound from a loss last week and keep pace in the standings.

The Panthers held off a late Harlingen rally and dealt the Red Birds a 60-46 loss as they leaned on their veteran Braxton Bloomquist, who scored a game high 18 points.

“We have been playing well all year, we just had some games where the ball just didn’t go in,” said Weslaco coach Gabe Valdez. “We just try and keep the kids focused, and we have a good team. Win or lose we continue to fight. We preached to them all week to keep their focus and they came out and played hard game against a very good Harlingen team.”

The Panthers wasted no time early on and used an 11-5 run to jump start their offense, and silence the home crowd. Jesus Payes led the Weslaco offensive assault with eight first-quarter points and at one point the Panthers led 20-5 late in the first quarter.

“They’re a good team and they’re not indicative to what their record is,” said Harlingen coach Greg Yates of Weslaco. “They have a lot of size and talented players, they’re a well-coached team and they came out strong against us.

“That hurt us, falling behind like that and we spent a lot of energy coming back. I give my kids credit, we were down by 15 and we came back and took the lead late.”

Harlingen found life late in the second quarter and cut into the lead at 28-16 at the half and used that late momentum in the third quarter.

The Cards used a 16-4 in the third quarter to tie the game at 32 with 2:14 left in the quarter. Harlingen took its first lead of the game on a John Ortega three pointer that gave the Cards a 37-36 lead.

Unfortunately, that was the only lead Harlingen had as Weslaco outscored the Cards 24-9 in the final quarter and sealed the win.

“It’s tough when you spot a team that many points, especially in this district,” Yates said. “I knew they were going to be tough, the first time we played them it came down to the final shot. Tonight I wish we could have gotten off to a better start and it’s unfortunate that we have the flu bug going around and affecting our team, but evidently it’s going around and hurting all of the United States.”

With the win, Weslaco is now 4-4 in district play and is still on the outside looking in. Harlingen and Harlingen South both sit at 5-3 while Brownsville Rivera is 6-2 and still looking up a Los Fresnos, which is 8-0.