Strong second half lifts Falcons past Cardinals

HARLINGEN — The Los Fresnos Falcons got a step closer to winning the District 32-6A title on Tuesday as they completed a season sweep against the Harlingen Cardinals, 71-55.

The Falcons got a strong 18-point effort from Gabe Martinez to pull past the Cards.

“We have a seasoned group, the kids finished strong tonight and I’m proud of them,” said Falcons coach Marco Hinojosa. “The entire game was tough because Harlingen is a great ball club and they brought it tonight. Our kids weathered the storm and that’s basketball.”

With the win, the Falcons remain in the driver’s seat with a 10-0 district record and are now one win away from clinching the league title. The Falcons host Brownsville Rivera on Friday.

Harlingen, meanwhile, sits at 6-4 and is in control of its own destiny with four games remaining. The Cards will meet Brownsville Hanna on Friday before finishing the season next week against San Benito, Harlingen South and Rivera.

“This is a tough district and each week is a battle so every game is important,” said Cardinals assistant coach Lee Roy Sanchez. “Tonight we turned over the ball too many times in the second half and in the end that’s what hurt us. We didn’t start the fourth quarter strong and against a team like Los Fresnos they will make you pay.”

The Cards battled back in the second quarter by keeping within striking distance. Harlingen got strong play from Jeremy Vasquez, who scored a game high 20 points. Meanwhile, junior point guard Michael Arellano struggled to generate any offense and finished with four points, which marks a season low.

After three quarters, Los Fresnos led 50-43 but it was the fourth quarter where the momentum shifted in favor of Los Fresnos. The Falcons heated up and used an 11-0 run to extend their lead 61-43 as they outscored Harlingen 21-12 in the final period.

“Harlingen did a great job on forcing turnovers,” Hinojosa said. “We told the kids to just take care of the basketball, make good passes and do the little things right. We hadn’t done it all night and once we started doing those things we were all right.”