Gladiators grind out victory over Wildcats

WESLACO — As district action draws near for Valley boys basketball teams, the importance for teams to hit their stride increases.

Roma’s Emilio Garcia and the Gladiators found theirs Friday against Weslaco East as they grinded out a 37-28 non-district victory over the Wildcats at Weslaco East High School.

With rain slowing down the Gladiators’ trip to Weslaco East, they found a way to run through all obstacles.

“It was a long trip and we barely made it. The guys persevered. They did what they needed to do to get the ‘W,’ and that’s all that matters,” Roma head coach Luis Ramirez said.

With a six-point halftime lead, Garcia found his groove during the third quarter as he scored all nine of the Gladiators points. But the Wildcats clawed their way back into it with a 15-point quarter to send the game into the fourth knotted at 26.

Garcia scored four more of his game-high 18 points during the fourth to seal the win.

“It was all about effort. We were slipping up at the end when they tied it up, but we just had to change our mindset and be a little more tough and faster and we got it done,” Garcia said.

Garcia is normally in the starting five for the Gladiators, but Ramirez wanted to tinker with his rotations due to injuries. Garcia delivered anyways.

“He’s clutch. He’s usually my starter, but I wanted to try another kid in there, but he performs when he has to,” Ramirez said of his junior center.

The Gladiators held the Wildcats to just two points over the final eight minutes.

“This team with this mentality can play that type of defense. I’m just hoping we can play four quarters of that same defense,” Ramirez said.

Roma will compete in one more tournament before beginning district play at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3 against rival Rio Grande City at Rio Grande City High School.

“We were on a roller coaster, but now we’re starting to get to that level right before we get to district in January,” Ramirez said. “We have to finish off on a good note, and primarily injury free so we can get into that first district game at full strength.”

Meanwhile, Weslaco East has one tournament remaining plus a non-district matchup against PSJA High before the Wildcats tip-off District 31-6A play on the road against Edinburg North on Jan. 7.