MISSION — Edinburg Vela’s Axel Garza and JP Olivarez scored 18 points apiece and Jordan Bustamante chipped in 16 off the bench as the SaberCats roared past the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks 63-41 during a Region IV-5A quarterfinal Tuesday at Mission High.

The victory advances the SaberCats to the Region IV-5A tournament for the first time since 2019. Their season ended in the Sweet 16 that season with a 68-58 loss to Cibolo Steele.

“Its an exciting feeling,” Edinburg Vela head coach Lucio Rodriguez said. “I’m excited more than anything for these guys. They’ve worked for this since they’ve been SaberCats. They deserve it. They’re a good group of kids that have worked had for this accomplishment.”

First-quarter nerves seemed to play a factor for both teams, who combined for just 19 points during the opening period.

The nerves faded rather quickly for the SaberCats, erupting for 19 points alone during the second quarter to take a commanding 31-17 lead into the break.

“Its a big game so I think the first quarter we had a little bit of jitters,” Rodriguez said.” I think once we settled in we were able to play our game.”

Leading the charge during the period was sophomore sixth man Bustamante, who scored 10 of his 16 points during the quarter, including a solo 6-0 run midway through the second to extend Vela’s lead to double digits.

Edinburg Vela’s Jordan Bustamante, right, draws a foul from Sharyland Pioneer’s Edward Chavez, left, in their Region IV-5A quarterfinal game at Mission High Neuhaus gym Tuesday, Feb.26 2024 in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

“We’ve leaned on Jordan (Bustamante) for that all season,” Rodriguez said. “He’s shown and prove he’s one of the best newcomers in the Valley this year. It just shows every game.”

The Diamondbacks didn’t back down despite the deficit, cutting Vela’s lead to 10 thanks to a nine-point third quarter from Edward Chavez, but the SaberCats responded with a 6-0 run to close out the period and take a 49-32 lead into the fourth.

Edinburg Vela picked up right where it left off to start the final period — adding another 6-0 run to balloon its lead to 23 — and never looked back.

Edinburg Vela’s Ariel Garza, left, collides with Sharyland Pioneer’s Josh Gaither, right, in their Region IV-5A quarterfinal game at Mission High Neuhaus gym Tuesday, Feb.26 2024 in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

The SaberCats are set to take on San Antonio Wagner in a Region IV-5A semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The winner between those two teams faces off against the winner between San Antonio Veterans and Corpus Christi Veterans at 2 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the state tournament.

“One game at a time is the message for our boys,” Rodriguez said. “Just like we’ve prepared for every other game, this is another one. We’re going to prepare just like we have for the ones before.”

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