HARLINGEN — In their final Bird Bowl meeting on the season, both Harlingen and Harlingen South needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
In front of a packed house at the Hawks gym, Cardinals junior point guard Michael Arellano stepped up with a 10-point fourth quarter performance and helped seal the game with four late free throws to complete the Red Birds’ 53-46 comeback victory.
“This is a big win for us. Against a great team like South and to win on the road is huge,” Arellano said.
The Cards now sit in a tie with Weslaco for second place with both teams holding a 9-4 record and one game left in the regular season. The Hawks, meanwhile, dropped to 8-5 and are tied with Brownsville Rivera for fourth place at 8-5 with one game remaining.
After a slow start offensively from both teams, Harlingen South’s Grant Lowery caught fire from beyond the arc and gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the night at 23-12. Lowery was the X-factor for the Hawks, who hit four 3-pointers in the first half and held a 23-14 lead at the break.
The second half was a different story, as the Cards found their grove and raced out to a 6-0 run to take a 34-29 lead on an Arellano 3 ball midway through the third period.
“In the second half we needed to slow down Lowery because he was hitting 3s and made the difference in the first half,” said Harlingen coach Greg Yates. “I told the kids that the best way to keep a scorer from shooting is to not let him catch the ball. At one point we were fouling him (Lowery) as soon as he caught the ball and we were pleased with that, and were able to contain him.”
Late in the contest, Arellano took control and finished with a game high 24 points. South managed to trim the lead to 49-46 in the final two minutes, but Arellano hit all four of his free throws to put the game out of reach in the final seconds.
“He (Michael) has been making plays for us all year,” Yates said. “He is a great offensive player, he just needs to get on a role and once he does he is able to close out games and hit free throws, and that was evident tonight.”
The Cards also got a solid performance from Kameryn Gonzalez, who scored nine points. Harlingen also welcomed back senior Matthew Sesler, who missed the last few weeks with an injury.
For the Hawks, Lowery finished with 18 points and senior Aaron Briones finished with seven.
Harlingen South will play at Los Fresnos on Tuesday and need a win, and some help in order to make the postseason.