HARLINGEN — Sometimes, it is more than just a game.
For Harlingen High senior Mike Vasquez, Saturday’s game against Corpus Christi Miller meant more to him than any other game he has played. He took the court with a heavy heart, as Saturday would have been younger brother Anthony’s 15th birthday. Anthony died three years ago, and despite the adversity Vasquez takes the court for his younger brother.
“There was extra emotion today, and this morning I went by to see him and we had a chat,” Vasquez said. “I just asked for one wish and that was to get a win for him today.”
Vasquez delivered on that wish, finishing with a game-high 15 points as he helped Harlingen High earn a 68-60 win.
“I feel like every day he is here with me,” Vasquez said. “When I take the court he is there with me, and I play for him. Hopefully I can go by and see him later today. Today I wanted to go out there and play for him, and today was emotional. And this is my senior year, and I have to push it and play hard.”
First-year coach Clayton Cretors, who had been an assistant on the basketball staff, has seen Vasquez emerge as a player both on and off the court.
“He is a tremendous kid, I love that kid so much,” Cretors said. “He has gone through so much adversity in his life. He is not the only one that has gone through stuff, but he has gone through so much as a young man and today was a special day for him. I was glad he was able to compete and be successful, and I’m proud of him on how he has responded as a young man. He comes to practice and works hard, and provides senior leadership. He is a huge piece to our team.”
On the court, Harlingen High held off a late Miller rally, finishing strong down the stretch.
Entering the final four minutes, the teams were tied at 53. The Cardinals went on a 7-0 run that put them ahead 60-53. Vasquez scored nine fourth-quarter points, and teammate Michael Castillo scored eight of his 14 points during the final period.
Three Cardinals scored in double figures. Ashton Adams also finished with 14 points and drilled four 3-pointers in the win.
Harlingen High heads into district play with momentum, as it prepares for Los Fresnos on Friday.
“We are steadily improving,” Cretors said. “I hope we haven’t peaked yet, but we are getting better each game. I don’t talk to the kids about peaking, but about getting better one percent each day. We come to practice aiming to get better, and going out there and competing.”