Hot shooting Harlandale subdues McCollum
In a three-month basketball season, every team will experience a rough patch. Harlandale is no exception.
Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 4, the Indians (11-6, 2-1) lost four of five games. However, Harlandale had put that stretch behind them by Dec. 18 when it played host to rival McCollum (4-10, 1-3).
The Indians recorded their third-consecutive victory — all but one in District 26-5A — by defeating the rival Cowboys 76-49.
“It was a good tournament for us,” Harlandale coach Eric de los Santos said. “We had some kids who were out because they were taking the SAT (test). So we had some kids getting more playing time and playing different positions. We used that to our advantage.”
Behind nine points from Chris Benavidez, the Indians took a 22-14 lead in the first quarter against McCollum.
The Indians took the lead mostly through halfcourt execution. Then Harlandale began taking deep shots and made four in the second quarter. Benavidez (14 points), Steven Benitez (10 points), Steven Ruiz (10 points) and Gavin Ramos all found the range as Harlandale’s lead grew to 35-18.
Ruiz attributed the hot shooting to the Indians’ practice ritual. Each day, every player must make 13 three-point shots and 10 free throws before practice is dismissed.
“It wasn’t just me, it was the team,” Ruiz said. “When the game comes, we’re ready as a team.”
McCollum scored the last five points in the half to pull within 38-25. Jacob Ledesma converted a three-point play and Josh Sotello (11 points) scored off a steal.
“They got hot,” McCollum coach Marcus Alvarado said. “We had it down to 13 at half, and could’ve gotten it down to 10 or 11. Then We had some turnovers, and it went from 13 to 17 to 20.”
Freshman Cris Villarreal also 11 points for the Cowboys. Sophomore Jordan Barajas and Eric Laija scored nine points apiece.
“It has been a learning experience for a lot of our guys,” Alvarado said. “It has been a challenge this year, but they’re willing to learn.”
Despite his blistering shooting, Ruiz shone mostly with his defense on Sotello.
“Coach told me he was a great shooter,” Ruiz said, “so I tried to take his shot away. He’s pretty quick, so I wanted to stop the drive, too.”
The Indians’ top scorer this season, Caleb Garcia, struck for eight points in third quarter alone to finish with 12. De los Santos said Garcia did a great job of letting the game come to him.
Six-foot-four sophomore Manuel Rabago led Harlandale with 15 points, producing 13 after halftime.
“We executed well as a team,” de los Santos said. “We pride ourselves on that.”
East Central 90, San Marcos 66
The Hornets (12-5, 1-0) rode a 52-point second half to victory in their District 26-6A opener Dec. 18, defeating San Marcos (4-11, 0-1) at the Bonewitz Center.
Transfer Jonathan Ochoa led 12 East Central scorers with 26 points. Semaj Mitchell supplied 11 points as the Hornets battled back from a 39-38 halftime deficit.
Burbank 75, Fox Tech 31
The Bulldogs (12-8, 2-1) ran to a District 27-5A win Dec. 18 at Fox Tech (2-14, 0-3).
Manuel Arispe led 10 Burbank scorers with 22 points. Sebastian Urista chipped in with nine.
Tony Martinez scored a team-best 12 points for Fox Tech.