Harlandale regroups to edge determined McCollum
In a game characterized by big momentum swings, Harlandale survived the biggest one.
The Indians (18-8, 2-1) had the first huge run, outscoring rival McCollum 14-2 in little more than the first five minutes Jan. 9 at Harlandale. The Cowboys (18-14, 2-1) kept their hosts scoreless for seven minutes, 20 seconds, spanning the second and third quarters, to set up a dramatic finish in the District 29-5A showdown.
Harlandale senior guard Deanna Chavarria intercepted McCollum’s inbounds pass and made the clinching free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining. Jahaira Escalante grabbed McCollum’s ensuing desperation inbounds heave to allow time to run out in the Indians’ 41-38 victory.
“I saw where they were going with (the pass),” Chavarria said of the double-bonus attempts. “Everybody was trying to get there, so I had to get there first. I knew I was going to get fouled, so it was do-or-die on the free throws. I told myself all I needed was one.”
A basket by Escalante with 1:37 remaining ended Harlandale’s scoring drought and increased its lead to 39-35. McCollum trailed by 20 points at halftime, but a 3-point play from Stephanie Esquivel (23 points) began the Cowboys’ impressive comeback. They outscored Harlandale 27-9 during the near-quarter-length run.
McCollum coach Rudy Fernandez all but admitted that his gamble, which rescued the Cowboys’ chances, probably shouldn’t have worked. He decided to extend the defensive pressure from baseline to baseline, although Harlandale has three solid ballhandlers in Nisa Delgado (11 points), Fawzieh Saleh (10 points) and Serena Rodriguez.
“We just went back to our press,” Fernandez said. “Harlandale knew what to prepare for, and they have good guards. We just tried to force them to the outside with hard pressure.”
McCollum guard Dominique Villarreal scored the first basket of the fourth quarter on an assist from Jazlyn Trinidad. Esquivel scored 10 of the next 12 points, including a three-for-three trip to the free-throw line that closed Harlandale’s lead to 37-35 with 2:12 remaining.
Abby Flores made a steal near the Cowboys’ basket and fed Villarreal for a layup with 8.9 seconds that cut Harlandale’s lead to 40-38. But McCollum never got off another shot.
“I knew they’d come out strong in the second half,” first-year Harlandale coach Vicky de los Santos said. “I’m really proud of the girls. They stuck to their guns and stayed focused.
“We had a great first half. When we move the ball like that, we’re successful.”
The Indians established the lead with a varied attack. Rodriguez hit a pair of 3-point shots in the first quarter, and Abcde Serna powered inside for six points in the second quarter. Saleh scored her eight first-half points inside and outside.
“We knew we should have won against Southside (Jan. 5),” Chavarria said. “We wanted to show who we really are.”
Harlandale won 47-37 at Floresville (8-18, 0-3 in district) Jan. 12, while McCollum bounced back with a 42-25 win over Eagle Pass Winn (12-12, 2-1 in district) to keep the teams tied for second in 29-5A.
“We came out pretty hot and hit some shots,” Fernandez said. “We scored 20 points in the first quarter and 22 the rest of the game.”