MISSION — Daysha Tijerina has played an integral part in building and sustaining Edinburg High’s winning culture and expectation of excellence on the hardwood.
As a senior, however, the Bobcats’ guard had to take charge and guide her team through an unpredictable season defined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tijerina rose to the occasion and elevated her game to a new level to become one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most elite offensive playmakers and meet a new slew of challenges to continue Edinburg High’s tradition of basketball success.
Her leadership and execution on the court have guaranteed her a spot among the Bobcats’ basketball greats and earned her The Monitor’s All-Area Girls Basketball Offensive Player of the Year award.
“It feels good (to see) all that hard work and hours we’ve put in as a team together (pay off) … especially knowing that we had a pretty good playoff run as a team, and for myself too,” Tijerina said. “All the hard work I put in outside of school basketball feels good now. My main thing was just trying to make everyone in my family and my friends proud.”
Through her first three seasons at the varsity level, Tijerina was a cog in the Bobcats’ basketball machine.
The team amassed a staggering 100-22 record on the court during a stretch of dominance that featured three 30-win seasons and three consecutive district championships.
Tijerina steadily improved year to year, becoming a regular contributor as a sophomore and one of the team’s leading scorers as a junior.
“It feels good being in a winning atmosphere,” she said. “It’s definitely taught me a lot since my freshman year to my senior year. I’m just super blessed to have people like Coach (John David Salinas and George Olvera) and the teammates I have around me. We push each other and we make sure to get everybody to buy in because we’re a team at the end of the day.”
That production and experience playing for one of the Valley’s most successful basketball programs prepared Tijerina to take the reins as a senior.
She was tasked with bridging the divide between a decorated class of her senior teammates and an incoming group of talented freshmen into an already deep Bobcats lineup.
Tijerina also found herself shouldering more offensive responsibility as fellow senior guard A’nnika Saenz gradually ramped back up after returning from a knee injury that ended her junior season prematurely.
“I wasn’t really used to being in that role,” she said. “It wasn’t really overwhelming, but it kind of just happened with those people around me. They were helping me be better myself and helping me be better for my team.”
Tijerina worked diligently on refining her offensive game throughout the offseason and during the regular season, finding creative workarounds to keep training at a high intensity amidst multiple quarantines and COVID-related stoppages in team activities.
She became the Bobcats’ leading scorer and tallied double-digit point totals in 22 of the 25 games she appeared in. Tijerina made her presence felt as one of the most prolific offensive players in the RGV by averaging 15.4 points and 2.8 assists per game.
The senior guard also made a name for herself as one of the Valley’s most efficient scorers by notching career-high shooting marks from the floor (49%) and from beyond the 3-point arc (41%).
“I’m the type of person where if I could pick whether to go out with friends or go to the gym, honestly I’d go to the gym any day. Ever since I was probably in seventh or eighth grade, the gym has been my home,” Tijerina said. “Even during quarantine if I wasn’t going to the gym, it was running on the treadmill in my house or getting stronger with weights. Basketball is a passion for me. I’ve put in a lot of work and, to be honest, it feels good seeing it all (come together) on the court during games.”
Tijerina also served as one of the models of consistency for Edinburg High during a wildly unpredictable regular season.
The Bobcats missed out on nearly half of their typical number of regular-season games due both to a truncated non-district schedule and a lack of tournaments resulting from health and safety protocols and travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
That prevented the team from finding its footing and building chemistry as quickly early in the season before its district schedule was upended.
The Bobcats were forced to undergo two program-wide quarantines during the season and with just one week of games sandwiched between them, Edinburg High played only three games during a five-week stretch.
That forced the squad into playing four District 31-6A games in four days late in the regular season to catch up, but Tijerina led her team on a 16-game winning streak to clinch its fifth straight district title.
“COVID really impacted our season in a big way,” she said. “Not being able to go to the tournaments in San Antonio really hurt us a lot because those are extra games where we’re supposed to find ourselves as a team and we just had a shorter regular season. We still did good despite everything and we’re still thankful that we even got to have a season in general. It was definitely better than nothing, and that’s all I can ask for.”
More than her consistency or efficiency, Tijerina’s biggest offensive contribution to the Bobcats this season was her performances during crunch time.
She tallied 10 points on 56% shooting to help Edinburg High overcome a sluggish start in a decisive bi-district victory over Los Fresnos in the Class 6A playoffs.
Tijerina scored 12 points that included several must-have free throws for the Bobcats during the fourth quarter of a narrow area-round win against San Antonio Warren, too.
But she saved her biggest performance of the season for the biggest stage in the RGV when Edinburg faced Harlingen High in the regional quarterfinals and the first high school girls basketball playoff game ever played at Bert Ogden Arena.
“We stayed in the Vipers’ locker room, the home locker room, and it was pretty nice. (It) was just the atmosphere of that big arena,” she said. “It was probably a little nerve-racking for the younger ones, but it felt good. With that being our last game, it just felt good having it in that big arena with all our fans. It was loud and it was just great.”
Tijerina dropped a game-high 24 points on 53% shooting from the field and an 86% clip from the free-throw line. She added eight rebounds and a pair of steals, but what stood out most was her composure with the game on the line.
Tijerina re-entered the game late in the fourth quarter after being helped off the floor with leg cramps earlier. She didn’t miss a shot after coming back into the contest and drilled a contested layup through contact to give Edinburg a one-point lead with 7.5 seconds to go.
The Bobcats ultimately lost on a Harlingen buzzer-beater, but with that performance and spectacular senior season, Tijerina joined her role models in the conversation of the most accomplished players to take the court at Edinburg High.
“Jaylah (Santa Maria) has been one of my biggest role models since probably before freshman year,” she said. “Knowing now that I can be in the Jaylah Santa Maria talk (as one of the best Bobcats’ players) feels really good, and I just know that these freshmen will be where we are at when their time is done.”