MISSION — McAllen High head coach Stephanie Cantu sat senior Celina Saenz with 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter, noticing something wrong with her star forward.

Cantu turned to Saenz, who was battling through some pain, before the start of the second quarter, asking her if she was good to go. Saenz re-entered the contest without hesitation.

Saenz fought through the pain, recording a gutsy 15-point, 16-rebound double-double to lead the Bulldogs to a 40-36 victory over the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks in a District 31-5A contest Tuesday at Sharyland Pioneer.

“That’s the thing about Celina, she’s going to play through anything,” Cantu said. “You can’t take that away from her. You can’t coach that. That’s just her wanting to be on the floor. She’s going to play through whatever is going on. She’s dominant on the boards, taking shots and defensively. She was really key in our victory.”

McAllen High’s Celina Saenz, center, battles for the ball during a District 31-5A contest Tuesday at Sharyland Pioneer in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Saenz recording a double-double has become a norm for the Bulldogs’ star, averaging 10.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this year. Tuesday’s performance marked her 10th double-double of the year.

Down five at the half, Saenz and the Bulldogs erupted for an 18-point third quarter to tie the game at 30 going into the final period.

During the fourth, Saenz helped seal the comeback victory, hauling in an offensive rebound and netting the go-ahead basket with 2:30 left, before coming down with her 16th rebound with 32.6 seconds left to all but seal the Diamondbacks fate.

McAllen High’s Lola Mallard followed Saenz’s rebound, giving the Bulldogs a four-point advantage with a free throw. Mallard finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

Sharyland Pioneer senior Jordan Bravo did her best to will the Diamondbacks to victory, scoring all six of Sharyland Pioneer’s points during the final period. Bravo finished with a game-high 20 points, while nabbing 10 boards.

Sharyland Pioneer’s Jordan Bravo (10) goes up for a layup between a pair of McAllen High defenders during a District 31-5A contest Tuesday at Sharyland Pioneer in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The Bulldogs’ victory moves them into a tie for second place in the district with Sharyland Pioneer, holding the tiebreaker with their win.

“It was extremely important to get this win,” Cantu said. “That’s what we told the girls at halftime. We’re a dominant team when we show up to play. They just have to come out and have fun and play their game. When they come out and do that, they’re unstoppable.”

The Diamondbacks (11-13, 3-1) hit the road for a contest against Valley View at 6 p.m. Friday at Valley View. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (18-8, 3-1) return to the hardwood at 6 p.m. Friday, hosting the PSJA Memorial.

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