La Feria News

Santa Maria headed to Sweet 16

After a big win over Port Aransas Marlins, Santa Maria Cougars are headed to regional semifinals

By DAVE FAVILA
LFN

Santa Maria may be one of the smaller schools in the Valley, but its basketball team is certainly doing big things in the playoffs as of late.

On March 4, the Cougars belted Port Aransas 54-40 in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal in Kingsville to advance to the Region IV-2A tournament in San Marcos. They faced Normangee in the semifinals at 8 p.m. on March 6 at San Marcos High School.

The Cougars were led by Andrew Morales, who poured in 15 points, followed by Giovanni Diaz and Berny Castellanos, who finished the game with 10 points apiece.

Although not the leading score, Diaz was the spark for the Coogs, forcing turnovers and creating opportunities for the rest of the speedy Santa Maria squad.

“Coach told us to play good defense and execute the ball,” Diaz said. “We’re used to going down big, but we just wanted to control the game. Heading to the regional tournament feels good; we just want to rewrite history.”

The Cougars actually had to battle back early in the contest as Port Aransas opened things up with a seemingly commanding 13-4 run.

“We told the team that there was plenty of game left,” Cougars coach Albert Briones said. “I knew (Port Aransas) couldn’t shoot like that the rest of the game. Our kids were patient and we knew that we were going to play better. Port Aransas came out lights out, but we weathered the storm.”

The Cougars’ journey through the playoffs began with an 86-35 thrashing of Freer in the bi-district round. They then followed that victory up with a close 65-60 area-round win over Fatonia on Feb. 28.

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