MISSION — Sharyland Pioneer had to wait nearly three weeks to make its competitive return to the basketball court, but wasted no time in picking up where it left off.
After only one day of practice together since the start of the new year, the Diamondbacks raced out of the gates in their first District 31-5A contest in 18 days by outscoring rival Sharyland High 22-0 in the first 11 minutes of play.
Junior forward Jordan Bravo led the way tallying a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds, as Pioneer thoroughly dismantled the visiting Rattlers en route to a 53-14 victory in the Snakeskin Classic in a dominant return to the hardwood Wednesday night.
“It was kind of tough coming back because yesterday was our first practice (together in a while),” Bravo said. “We were pressuring the ball a lot. We weren’t going to let them touch the ball.”
“It felt good just walking into the gym and hearing basketballs today,” Sharyland Pioneer head coach Nicole Villarreal said. “It’s a blessing (to play again) and the girls missed each other too. Even though we were doing remote workouts, it’s just not the same.”
Bravo and the Diamondbacks blitzed crosstown rival Sharyland High from the opening tip with a relentless full-court press that fueled a ferocious fastbreak attack offensively and kept the Rattlers scoreless throughout the first quarter.
Pioneer’s stifling defense set up its offense throughout the night, as senior center Carly Hornaday sealed off the paint while Bravo and sophomore guard Sophie Ponce De Leon never allowed Sharyland High’s offense time or space to get set up.
“Our focus was to run. I wanted us to make sure we were running and getting as many points as we could in transition,” Villarreal said. “That’s what we were doing and trying not to allow (Sharyland’s) defense to set up and work on our conditioning at the same time. … We really pride ourselves on our defense and try to get that to set up our offense.”
Pioneer didn’t allow its first bucket of the night defensively until nearly halfway through the second quarter when the Rattlers were able to string together a 7-0 run before heading to halftime trailing 25-7.
By the end of the game, the Diamondbacks had tallied more steals (15) than points allowed (14) and held their rivals to 17% shooting from the floor.
Pioneer was equally dominant on the offensive end, with Bravo, senior forward Audry Hornaday and senior point guard Natalie Reyes creating space and dishing out several well-executed assists on backdoor cuts to the basket.
The trio combined for 13 of the team’s 17 assists on the night, while Hornaday added 12 points and five rebounds as the Diamondbacks converted on 45% of their shot attempts.
“It came down to our inside game, I think,” Bravo said. “We were passing, cutting and not really taking that many outside shots. We were just focused on getting the ball inside.”
The victory moves Pioneer to 10-2 overall and 6-0 in District 31-5A in a season where little has been guaranteed.
The Diamondbacks have been dominant in 31-5A in limited action. With the playoffs fast approaching and many of their district opponents entering or continuing program-wide quarantines, the D’Backs are losing opportunities to shake off any rust before the postseason.
Pioneer learned Wednesday that two of its next three district games have been canceled due to COVID concerns within other programs, making Friday’s trip to PSJA Southwest as crucial a game the team has played this season.
“It’s kind of frustrating, honestly,” Bravo said. “We were already in our groove and then we had to stop and quarantine. It kind of set us back, but we didn’t let that stop us.”