Harlingen High’s defense shuts down Brownsville Hanna

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen High Lady Cardinals wasted no time Tuesday night, using a press defense to turn turnovers into points during a 25-point first quarter.

The start was good enough to earn an 81-54 win over Brownsville Hanna.

The Lady Cards are 2-0 in district play and travel to Los Fresnos on Friday night. The Lady Eagles are 1-1 and will shift their focus to San Benito.

Harlingen High’s press was relentless during the first quarter, and the offense followed. Alexus Coto posted a seven-point first quarter, and she drilled a 3-pointer to stretch the early lead to 11-2.

The combo of the Lady Cardinals’ defense and offense equaled a 25-6 lead after the first period.

Establishing the defense is how Harlingen High coach Ashley Moncivaiz drew it up, and she hopes the style will be the way her team sets the tone.

“Right now, I feel we are improving each game and the chemistry is getting better,” Moncivaiz said. “It is getting to a point to where our girls are getting to really know each other, and defensively we are getting better. We are moving more cohesively than before. One of the things I have been preaching to the girls at practice is us setting the tone on defense. People want to see offense, but for us the defense is what gets us going, and the offense will follow.”

Coto finished with a team-high 11 points. Avery Hinojosa finished with nine points, and Sydney Portillo, Callie Cervantes and Athena Linnartz scored eight points apiece.

Hanna’s offense settled down and answered Harlingen High’s shots during the first half, but the Lady Eagles couldn’t erase the early hole.

Odalys Gonzalez led the way with a game-high 21 points, Kate Garza netted 15 and Alexis Alvarez scored nine.

“Anytime you play Harlingen (High), you expect to see the press,” Lady Eagles coach Luis Gonzalez said. “Our girls weren’t ready for it and we fell behind early, and we had to play catchup the rest of the game. Harlingen did a great job with the press, and we struggled with it. We shot better in the second half, and the girls stepped up to the challenge. We just fell in a hole early.”

Once again, the Lady Cards are a deep club with multiple weapons at its disposal. While the returning Cervantes, Coto, Portillo, Hinojosa and Alysa Salas have picked up where they left off, the freshman class is beginning to hit its stride.

Freshman Juli Bryant scored five points in the win and showed off her range defensively. Linnartz, also a freshman, provides a defensive presence inside along with the ability to score. The traits are adding up and beginning to take shape for the youngster.

“The speed is a big difference. It is quicker at this level,” Linnartz said. “It is much more physical, too. The more I’m on the court the more comfortable I feel, and since our second tournament I feel much more confident in my game.”

Linnartz has come on as of late and only adds to an already loaded roaster for Moncivaiz’s squad.

“She started off a little slow and kind of took her time, but the thing with Athena is she is a good asset to where she can go inside and go outside, and she can contribute in different ways,” Moncivaiz said. “She is not afraid to defend anyone, and she can score, too. She can contribute anywhere she can on the court.”