McAllen Rowe girls, boys sweep Harlingen South

HARLINGEN — There was a lot of competitive basketball played Tuesday night as the Harlingen South and McAllen Rowe girls and boys programs faced off in non-district action.

The girls got the action started with the Rowe Lady Warriors using their physicality to pick up a 54-43 victory over the Lady Hawks. Rowe’s fast start in the third quarter set the tone for a dominant second half that clinched the win.

Rowe’s superior rebounding efficiency made a big difference in the contest. From the opening whistle, Evelyn Valero and Yulissa Yebra overpowered South in the paint and pulled down a multitude of rebounds, particularly on offense. Valero scored 12 of her 24 points during the opening quarter.

Harlingen South closed the second quarter strong to tie the game at halftime. Jasmine Ortiz, Grettell Corona and Sarahi Rodriguez battled down low and came up with clutch rebounds. Rodriguez and Corona used consecutive put-back buckets after rebounds to make it 25-25 at the break.

“Once we stopped the transition game, we were more effective in that halfcourt set,” South coach Rebecca Littleton said. “Rowe was a very physical team. They did a tremendous job against us tonight and showed us a couple things we need to work on.”

Valero, Yebra and the defensive effort from Destiny Menchaca helped Rowe outscore South 18-8 in the third quarter, creating enough separation to hold on for the win. Alyssa Cantu aided Rowe’s overwhelming defense that kept the Lady Hawks trailing by 10 consistently throughout the second half.

Alexes Rocha led the Lady Hawks with relentless effort and 24 points, including two 3-pointers. Isabella Marez and Katelyn Machen kept South fighting despite the deficit.

“Tonight showed us we need to work on those pressure situations, being more physical inside,” said Littleton, who is in her first year with the Lady Hawks. “That’s what these games are for. Saw a lot of good things, a lot of bad things, and I’m excited for us to grow and get better.”

Harlingen South’s Alexes Rocha (12) dribbles the ball during a non-district game against McAllen Rowe on Tuesday in Harlingen. (Claire Cruz/Valley Morning Star)

The Rowe Warriors were victorious, too, holding off a fierce South Hawks comeback attempt to clinch a 41-38 win in a defensive contest. Rowe used its length to lock up the paint on defense, forcing the Hawks to throw up a lot of outside shots and holding them to just two points scored in the second quarter.

“Harlingen South was making us play fast, and they always play very good defense,” Rowe coach Jose Luis Yebra said. “Our kids, once they settled down and we came out in the third quarter and scored really quick, we relaxed and we were able to take the lead and maintain it.”

South jumped out to a 13-8 lead after the opening quarter, leaning on its fast-paced tempo and active hands to force turnovers and break away for easy buckets. Ddeen Badiru (13 points) started the second quarter by swiping a steal and going coast-to-coast with a strong dribble down low to sidestep a defender and finish the layup.

After that play, the Warriors went on a 16-point run. They used their height and athleticism to control the boards, resulting in second- and third-chance looks that helped them jump on top. Luis Emiliano Gudino, Julian Avila and Elijah Alcantar played big roles in the momentum swing.

“Our defense in the first quarter, we were in a zone and we were not moving our feet,” Yebra said. “Our defense started moving, got a couple steals and we played better in the second half.”

Harlingen South’s Steven Ortegon (2) dishes out a pass with McAllen Rowe’s Julian Avila (5) defending during a non-district game Tuesday in Harlingen. (Claire Cruz/Valley Morning Star)

The Hawks got sloppy as they started to force things the longer they went without scoring and saw a lot of good shots go in and out of the hoop. But a strong seven-point stretch from Badiru to close the third brought a new fire to the Hawks, which they built on in the fourth.

“Give us the same opportunities on any other night, and we make a lot more baskets,” Hawks coach Brian Molina said. “Ball was going in and kicking out. They started pressing a little too much, trying too hard once they started missing shots.

“(Badiru) plays with a lot of passion, plus he’s an experienced four-year letterman, and I think the kids just trust him. He has that big-game experience.”

Luis Rios, Ethan Salinas and Xander Ysasi knocked down clutch shots and played tight defense to help South tie things at 37 with just more than one minute remaining. Badiru and Rios used strong moves in the paint to hit shots and notch rebounds.

“We did a better job of keeping them out of the paint … we were more aggressive in the second half and created opportunities in the fourth quarter,” Molina said. “I’m proud of the boys. I liked their effort, and I liked the way they fought at the end.”

Avila (11 points) nailed a deep 3-pointer and Daniel Fraire snatched an important rebound during the final minute to secure the victory for the Warriors.