EDINBURG — With a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, McAllen Rowe forward Louie Yebra approached teammate Darrin Everage Jr. at midcourt.
He said six words.
“Fourth quarter. It’s time. Let’s go.”
The message was heard loud and clear as the Warriors closed out their Class 6A area-round matchup against Weslaco High with a 59-45 win at Bert Ogden Arena, sending Rowe to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.
“Tonight’s game was something that we needed to come and earn, because I knew that Weslaco was going to be a tough team to beat. Our kids made up their mind that they wanted to win this ball game from the start to the end,” Rowe head coach Jose Yebra said. “We made some mistakes here and there because they fought hard, but we were able to respond, and we responded well.”
For Everage, moving onto the third round is a long way from the Warriors senior’s first three years on varsity, which ended with first-round playoff exits.
“This is just surreal. We set goals at the beginning of the year and this was one of them. To accomplish that goal, fighting right next to each other, coming out here and playing hard and coming out with a win, that’s huge for us,” he said. “I give credit to all these guys, they all came out here and played hard, even the Weslaco guys. We gave the fans what they wanted. It was a hard-fought game and I’m glad we came out with the win.”
Everage finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as he put his teammates in good position late to increase the Warriors fourth quarter lead.
And in the crunch time of the fourth quarter, a Rowe freshman stepped up under the bright lights of Bert Ogden Arena.
Freshman point guard Darren Manriquez began the year on junior varsity but quickly moved up to the varsity level. Friday night, Manriquez scored seven of his nine points during the final eight minutes.
What was running through the freshman’s mind with a third-round berth on the line?
“Just attack. ‘Mamba Mentality,’” Manriquez said.
Weslaco High’s Vince Peralez came up huge for the Panthers as he double-doubled with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against the Warriors, but it wasn’t enough. Despite multiple looks inside at the basket, the Panthers couldn’t convert as it seemed there was a cover on the rim at times.
“If we would have made our shots, made some free throws, it would have been a different story. We missed a lot of easy ones, that hurt us, but they’re a good ball club,” Weslaco High head coach Gabe Valdez said. “They’re where they’re at for a reason. They do a good job of coaching them, they’re a good experienced core group, and that’s what we lacked this year, experience.”
Rowe’s Yebra and Everage hold a ton of experience, but what sparked Rowe’s run during the second quarter was the play of Patrick Tarbutton.
The junior was living in Weslaco’s passing lanes as the guard came away with three steals which resulted in fast break layups or free-throw attempts. Tarbutton followed up his first-half performance by doubling his point total to finish with a game-high 20.
“We knew they’d fall under pressure, so I just pressured them as much as I could. I knew they’d cough up the ball, and I got layups and free throws off of it,” Tarbutton said. “We’re a deep team. We can all go get a bucket, we can all go and defend, every single one of us.”
“All of us are threats and we all know it. We’re not selfish, we know our best game is all of us playing together, and we know it takes a team to win,” fellow junior Yebra said.
Rowe now moves on to face Laredo United in Round 3. Details have yet to be determined. Check back at RGVSports.com for all the latest boys basketball playoff info.