MISSION — Jordan Bravo has played a part in rewriting history during each of her first three seasons at Sharyland Pioneer.
As a freshman, she helped Pioneer capture its first district championship and a year later she led the Diamondbacks to an unbeaten run through district competition for the first time.
That all pales in comparison, however, to Bravo’s sensational junior season that featured a historic postseason run and elevated Pioneer to a regional powerhouse in Class 5A.
The junior forward led one of the Rio Grande Valley’s stingiest defenses while becoming one of the most versatile offensive weapons across South Texas. For her leadership and performance under pressure, Bravo has been tabbed The Monitor’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
“I think we had a good season this year,” Bravo said. “We got further (in the playoffs) than we thought we were going to. We had a long playoff run, even though we were down most of the time. But at the end, we pulled through.”
Bravo took the torch as the D’backs’ on-court leader as a sophomore, when forward Audry Hornaday missed the entire season due to an ACL injury.
She quickly grew confident with the ball in her hands and showed her athleticism while directing Pioneer’s offense.
That experience encouraged Bravo to grow and refine her offensive skill set during the offseason while isolated from her teammates during the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for Hornaday’s return to the lineup.
“I put a lot of work in during quarantine,” she said. “I really worked on my driving, not just my shooting, because everyone knows that I can shoot. I worked on my driving, I worked on getting up there for rebounds and on my defense.”
Bravo and her Sharyland Pioneer teammates relied upon their chemistry fine-tuned through years of playing alongside one another to get them through the early phases of the lockdown during the offseason and later in the year during quarantines, too.
That on-court bond allowed the Diamondbacks to hold each other to the same high standards during virtual training and film study as in-person practices.
That teammate-imposed accountability helped keep Pioneer dialed in and prepared in the face of numerous scheduling changes and limited practice time.
“All of us are really close,” Bravo said. “Even outside of school, we all hang out. We all go to other practices together and we’re just really close.”
Bravo’s game took a huge step forward during a junior campaign that saw her become one of the RGV’s most dangerous two-way players.
She averaged a team-high 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 5.3 steals per game during the regular season while setting new career highs in scoring, assists, rebounding and shooting percentage (52%).
Bravo also made the leap from distributor and spot-up shooter into a versatile offensive weapon for the Diamondbacks, who could score from anywhere on the floor.
“I’ve really improved most on my drive. My freshman year, I was just a stand-up shooter at the (3-point line),” she said. “But now, I can pull a jumper, I can drive it in or shoot it. Audry put in work with me during quarantine, too. Whenever she got released (from physical therapy) with her ACL injury, we both put in work and that just made us closer.”
Bravo also took a leading role as the Diamondbacks moved into the postseason, where she shined as a defensive dynamo and a nearly unstoppable offensive force.
She became the only player from Sharyland Pioneer or the RGV to reach double figures in scoring in four consecutive playoff games, leading the D’backs to wins over Brownsville Pace, Victoria West and Victoria East.
Bravo’s crunch-time performances helped Pioneer make history yet again.
Her defensive tenacity helped the Diamondbacks turn the tide during the final minutes against West in a come-from-behind victory, Pioneer’s first area win ever.
She delivered an even greater showing during the fourth quarter against East when she buried three consecutive 3-pointers to help Pioneer storm ahead. Then with her team ahead in the waning moments, Bravo took control of the team’s huddle during a timeout and gave the D’backs their road map to another comeback postseason victory.
“It was all about our shots, like Danny (Rangel) hitting those clutch 3s against West and me hitting those 3s against East. It just felt good that we made it,” Bravo said. “We knew who to go to (late in games). We trusted everyone with the ball. We knew whoever had the ball was going to put it in.”
Bravo came through again for Sharyland Pioneer in its first Sweet 16 game in school history against Georgetown.
She accounted for slightly more than half her team’s points after scoring 15 against the Eagles in a defensive duel that ended the Diamondbacks’ magical playoff run.
Bravo was recognized for her contributions to Pioneer’s historic season with a spot on the District 31-5A Offensive Player of the Year award and a spot on the district’s all-defensive team.
She also joined Hornaday and junior guard Natalie Reyes as 5A All-Region picks by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, making the D’backs the only Valley team at any classification level with multiple selections.
With her senior season now on the horizon, the goal for Bravo and her teammates is straightforward: continue raising the bar.
“It felt good getting that far. It was just a little frustrating because we didn’t play to our full potential, but getting that far is just a blessing,” Bravo said. “(Next year) we want to get a fourth district title and get back to the Sweet 16 again. … The target is just getting bigger on our back. Everybody is going to come for us because we got deeper into the playoffs. We’ve just got to keep working.”
“I think we just need to trust each other,” she added. “We’re losing three starters, but we still have a bench that can play and that can fill in those starting positions. We just need to put in the work, and I think we’ll be good.”