Vega, Molina duo too much as Vela defeats South

EDINBURG — In what was a tale of two halfs, it was the duo of Edinburg Vela freshman Lauren Vega and sophomore Andrea Molina that helped seal a 41-37 come-from-behind win against Harlingen South in the Class 6A bi-district round Tuesday night in Edinburg.

Vega netted a game-high 15 points, and Molina scored eight points in the win.

The Lady Sabercats now await the winner of the McAllen High-Laredo United matchup. The two meet tonight.

Vela trailed by as many as 10 points late in the second quarter. The Lady Hawks’ Laura Ramirez carried the offense with 11 first-half points, hitting three shots from beyond the arc.

While Ramirez lit up the gym, it was Vega who flipped the switch during the second half.

“When you think about that combo with Vega and Molina, you don’t think about the experience coming into the game,” Vela coach Lottie Zarate said. “At halftime we talked about taking the bull by the horns, and I didn’t care which player it was, they knew what they had to do.”

After a hot first half, Vela’s defense adjusted to Ramirez and held her scoreless during the second half. South junior Karla Reyes finished the night with 10 points.

“We decided to run a diamond and 1, and we stuck with it the whole second half,” Zarate said. “(Karla) is a great asset for South, and we prepared. I know she is a great no-look passer and a great and unselfish player, so I told the girls this week that we need to prepare and be patient.”

The stage was never too big for Vega or Molina. Molina hit back-to-back 3s, followed by a Vega bucket that tied the game at 25 midway through the third quarter.

The youngsters sparked the second-half comeback, and gave Vela its first lead at 33-31 with 3:16 left in the third quarter thanks to a Vega basket. Vela did not trail the rest of the night.

Reyes hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 37-35. On the next possession, Bianca Rodriguez did not complete the three-point play with 21 seconds left, and South trailed by one. On the next trip, Vela senior Kayleen Rios hit a pair of free throws to help ice the game.

“(Vela) got hot in the second half,” South coach Kelly Garrett said. “They have great shooters and they got hot, and we broke down a few times and we gave them too many opportunities, and they hurt us on the offensive boards. We did not do our job on that part.”

Down the stretch South struggled from the field, and it struggled on the offensive boards throughout the night.

Despite the loss, Harlingen South had quite the turnaround by going 7-3 in District 32-6A. The Lady Hawks return Reyes and Ramirez to the lineup next season as seniors. Overall, the team returns nine players.

“I told the kids to keep their head held high,” Garrett said. “For those that are coming back, we will get back to work and will work just as hard for next year. To the seniors, we wish them the best. We have a lot coming back, but also a lot of work to do.”