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20111216_Palmview-v-Brownsville-Rivera-Boys-Basketball_dy-034What a difference a year makes. Last year the Palmview boys basketball team was abysmal. They went 5-27 on the season and were pushed around by most everyone, not the least of which was Brownsville Rivera who beat the Lobos by 30 points. This year, Palmview is sporting an 11-3 record and a new confidence. After Tuesday night’s game in La Joya, Rivera is sporting a few bruises.

Palmview head coach Andy Saenz credits his team’s new identity to a new work-ethic.

“I didn’t get the job last year until August,” said Saenz. “This year, as soon as the season was over, we got in the gym the very next day and I got the kids playing in tournaments. They showed up every day to work.”

Against Rivera, the work paid off. Coming off a game against Grulla where, although eventually winning big, the Lobos started slow, Palmview was hoping to impose their will early against the Raiders. The engine of the Lobo offense, point-guard Mario de la Garza, was primed early. De la Garza was directly and indirectly responsible for the Lobos first seven points as he made a strong move to the basket on their first possession, a graceful off-balance bank shot on their second possession and a head’s-up outlet pass to Jaime Garza who sank a three-pointer.

The Raiders hung tough though as their point-guard, Dominique Whitaker, hit a foul shot and a three-pointer of his own to keep the game close late in the first quarter which ended with Palmview up by only four, 12-16.

20111216_Palmview-v-Brownsville-Rivera-Boys-Basketball_dy-003In the second quarter Palmview stepped up their hustle as their full court press began to pay dividends against an increasingly panicky Raiders team. Danny Rios, in particular, seemed to have an uncanny ability to intercept passes as time and time again he found a way to get a finger on the ball. Jaime Garza knocked down a jumper in transition after a Rios steal followed by a three-pointer by Hector Gallegos, also after a Rios steal. Rios then chased down another ball, turning on his heels and putting on the burners before getting the ball back from a teammate and knocking down a three-pointer. Due in large part to Rios’ efforts in the second quarter, the Lobos simultaneously clamped down on the Raiders and inflated their lead. By halftime, Palmview had extended their lead to 17 points, allowing the Raiders to put up only three points in the entire quarter.

The offensive explosion didn’t come as a surprise to Saenz who knows full well what his team is capable of.

“We spread the floor very well,” said Saenz. “We get the ball inside and out and we have some really good shooters.”

Saenz may be accused of understatement. Earlier in the year against Laredo Nixon, the Lobos hit five three-pointers in the first quarter alone. Against Brownsville Porter, the Lobos sank five three’s in the fourth quarter.

20111216_Palmview-v-Brownsville-Rivera-Boys-Basketball_dy-023The third quarter of Tuesday’s game wasn’t quite as explosive as those, however, and while the Raiders were able to put up 15 and avoid falling even further behind the speedy, athletic Lobos, they couldn’t make up much ground. When the fourth quarter began, the score was 29-44.

The Lobos came out in the fourth with a full court press and once again, Rivera struggled to cope. On the off-chance the Raiders found themselves able to get to the basket, the Lobos lanky center, Dominick Garza was ready and waiting under their basket. The quarter began with an emphatic solo block by Garza who then hustled back on offense to grab a rebound and put it back in. It wasn’t long before the rout was on. Palmview’s Gallegos hit a transition layup followed by another three-pointer by the indefatigable Rios to push the lead to 20 points. Rivera wouldn’t be able to close the gap. As the final horn sounded Palmview’s Mark de la Garza made sure to get in the act by sinking a three-pointer with no time left, putting the score at 44-63.

According to Saenz, his biggest challenge now, after teaching the kids to win, is helping them understand how to keep winning.

“I think they go into every game going 100 miles an hour because they’re so used to playing from behind,” said Saenz. “For the kids, the mental aspect is kind of a challenge for them. It’s hard to go from 5-27 to a really good team in one year.

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