If you want to be the best, you have to beat the BEST. This was the case for a highly anticipated match up between the #1 Brownsville Hanna Eagles and #2 Weslaco Panthers (ratings are given out by Valley Freedom Papers for the RGV area). It's the first game of district play and both teams are vying for the top spot. The presents have been unwrapped, the tamales have all been eaten, and the fireworks of a new year have all but lit up the sky to welcome the first game of the district. The Weslaco Panthers boast two kids who have participated in the Ambassador program, #30 JT Lopez (SG) (photo below) and #3 Andrew Rangel (PG).
The Panthers struck first with aggressiveness and drive to the hole by Lopez for a 3-pt play. Weslaco continued its drive to the basket and led 6-3 in the middle of the first quarter. The game was physical from the beginning, but every time Weslaco thought they could extend their lead, Hanna was there to fire back. Weslaco played great transition basketball in the first half, showing why they have such a great coach, Gabe Valdez. Weslaco knows how to run the lanes and was able to quickly move the ball down court to score. First quarter score 12-12. As in any game, momentum can switch in the blink of an eye. JT Lopez showed once again why he is such a great player. His hussling allowed him to turn a bad pass into a scoring opportunity. With Weslaco getting into some foul trouble, and Hanna being succesful at the charity stripe, the Eagles tied it at 20 a piece. To my surprise, Hanna had a "lethal" weapon that fired endlessly all night, senior forward #10 Anthony Garza.
Standing a little taller than six feet, with a body-type like Tayshaun Prince, this kid showed why he is so special. With so many weapons, I witnessed strong rebounding, both offensive and defensive, 3-point shots from way behind the line, jumpers that melted into the net, some impressive ball-handling (for a big guy), baseline drives, and an endless variety of layups, all while having a defender or two in his face. He wrapped up his game with a nice breakaway dunk in the final quarter. I was left speechless. This kid is a gem waiting to be discovered. The first half ended with Hanna leadin 38-25. The second half showed what Weslaco's point guard, Andrew Rangel, is capable of. With quick moves to the basket, he was able to get some points on the board for his Panthers. Hanna's lead continued going into the 4th quarter with a score of 48-31. The Eagles showed great ball movement as Weslaco's fire began to slowly burn out. Lopez's hussle never diminished and his efforts were endless. Hanna outscored the Panthers 25-9 in the final quarter giving them a final score of 73-40. As with all districts, there will be a rematch and it will be at home for the Panthers who thrive on their fan base to add to their success. It can still be said that the Hanna Eagles are still one of the best teams in the valley, until another team attempts to knock that crown, but until then, Congratulations to the Eagles on an impressive win.
Congratulations to Coach Don Denson from the Brownsville Hanna Eagles for the great win! Good Luck to Coach Gabe Valdez and the rest of the Panthers as this district 32-5A will be a tough powerhouse this season.
** Special thanks to Joshua Jurado from Weslacosports.net for the picture of JT Lopez**