Warriors stop Chargers in bi-district round

The McAllen Rowe Warriors beat the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Chargers in a hard-fought Class 5A bi-district playoff game Thursday in Brownsville.

McAllen Rowe used its size to outrebound the Chargers, and the depth of its roster helped the Warriors pull away in the fourth for a 69-56 victory. Sophomore standout Darren Manriquez was the top scorer in the contest, recording 26 points behind his speed and clinical ball control. Rowe had seven other players find the scoreboard, and solid defense anchored an overall team effort to advance the Warriors to the area round.

“It feels great because of the work our players have done and our coaching staff. Now we have to prepare for the next opponent,” Rowe coach Jose Luis Yebra said. “It was a great game. (Chargers coach Larry Gibson) does a great job with his kids, and I knew it was going to be a challenge. I think the difference was our guard play. They can handle the pressure and handle the ball really well. Everybody did their role, everybody played as a team, but we’re fortunate to have Darren on our team.”

Brownsville Veterans used lights-out 3-point shooting to open an 11-3 lead in the first quarter. Junior Gerry Castaneda drained consecutive shots from behind the arc, then senior Matt Maddox added another to get the Chargers and their crowd fired up.

The Warriors came roaring back with a 7-0 run behind strong interior play from Patrick Tarbutton (12 points) and Elijah Alcantar. Manriquez used a suffocating defense at the top of Rowe’s half-court setup to force turnovers and mishaps. Maddox closed the opening quarter strong to keep his Chargers up 16-13.

“Our defense and our 3-point shooting kept us in the game,” Gibson said. “They really wanted to keep going. They didn’t believe they were a third-place team. They really thought they could win this game. We didn’t come in here with fear or anything, we gave them everything we had, they just had a little more depth and outrebounded us.”

Brownsville Veterans’ defense kept Manriquez relatively quiet during the first quarter, but he came to life in the second. As he maneuvered through the defense and drew heavy coverage, Rowe passed the ball around and got more guys involved. Emiliano Ramirez and Julian Avila scored six points each and monopolized the paint with their rebounding prowess and good defense to give Rowe a 39-31 lead at halftime.

“Once we get the lead and I can spread you out with my guards, you’re going to have a hard time, and that’s the reason (we won), I think,” Yebra said. “Sometimes we don’t rebound as much as we want to, and I challenged my players that I wanted them to have 10 rebounds each, and they really focused on that and got after it. That was a big plus for us.”

Rowe built its lead to double digits early in the third, but that didn’t slow down the effort from the Chargers. Maddox, Gerry Castaneda, Pablo Castaneda, Joshua Silva and Kenny Davis challenged the Warriors defensively, holding them to a game-low 11 points in the frame.

While Brownsville Veterans had a plethora of players contribute defensively, the Chargers relied on their outside shooting too much to keep up with the Warriors. Maddox and Gerry Castaneda combined to score 44 of the Chargers’ 56 points, dropping 22 points each. Castaneda hit five 3-pointers and Maddox added four, but once their efficiency from the field started to drop as they tired late in the second half, Brownsville Veterans’ offense faltered.

The lack of an interior presence resulted in the Warriors coming down with the majority of the rebounds on both sides of the court, which allowed Rowe to consistently get multiple scoring chances and control possession in the fourth. Gibson felt Rowe’s size and rebounding was his team’s undoing, but he was proud of the performance the Chargers put together to close out the season.

“My boys fought. They gave me everything they had and I’m not disappointed at all, we lost to a very good team. We just wore down in the fourth quarter,” Gibson said. “Manriquez is a hell of a player. We tried to do the best we could, but we couldn’t rebound with them. They killed us on the boards, and to me that was the difference in the game. They got too many offensive rebounds.”