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It took the Veterans Memorial Patriots seven minutes and forty seven seconds to score their first goal of the game against the Mercedes Tigers Tuesday night. It took them only five seconds to score their second. As a result VMHS turned what had been an 11-1 deficit in the closing seconds of the first quarter into a slightly more respectable 11-5 disadvantage as the buzzer signaling the end of the opening period sounded.
Entering the game Tuesday evening, the 4-1 Patriots (19-6 overall) needed a win against the 3-2 Tigers to assure themselves of no worse than a tie for first place in what has become a very competitive District 32-4A hoops race. With Valley View and Roma both sporting identical 4-1 district records before Tuesday’s games, Coach Romeo de la Garza Jr. knew that if his VMHS squad was to remain atop the standings, his boys would have to bounce back from such a slow start. That is exactly what the Patriots did when they used an 18-point fourth quarter to pull ahead of the Tigers to pull off a 43-37 come-from-behind victory.
De la Garza was not too concerned about his team’s slow start, even when it looked as if the Patriots were going to be held to only one point in the first period.
“As I stress to my guys, you don’t win the game in the first quarter,” said the coach. “It takes four quarters to win a game. My feeling was that they (Mercedes) shot the ball real well in the first quarter and my experience has taught me that teams don’t usually shoot that well for a full game. We hadn’t played our game yet and we hadn’t executed our game plan so I just thought it was a matter of time until we started getting things going.”
After holding Mercedes to only seven points in the fourth quarter, De la Garza credited a strong defense and a greater level of intensity for the win.
“I thought our defensive effort in the fourth quarter was the difference in the game,” said de la Garza. “I thought our level of intensity really picked up and I thought that we did a good job overall in the fourth quarter. We just need to understand that every game in this district is going to be a battle…it’s going to be a war from here on out.”
According to de la Garza, his team’s ability to bounce back from such a slow start and finish strong is a testament to how hard his players have worked all season.
“The great teams take care of business at home and they take care of business on the road,” explained de la Garza. “I feel that our guys have worked so hard to put themselves in the position they’re in and from here on out we’re going to take it one game at a time. We’ll enjoy this win for a little bit, but then we’ve got to get ready for Valley View on Friday.”
With all three teams taking home wins Tuesday night, Veterans Memorial, Valley View and Roma remain tied for first place, each with a 5-1 record. Mission fell to 3-3 in district, losing to Valley View 42-48.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.