By: Anthony Kennedy and Albert Luna
A loss has never looked so encouraging for a team. That was the case Tuesday night as the Eastwood boys' basketball team took the number one ranked Andress Eagles down to the wire in an eventual 62-61 opening night overtime loss for the Troopers. The game took place in the Bob Lesley gym as the Troopers opened up the boys’ basketball season with a nail biter in front of a packed house.
Andress, which is ranked the top team in the city by the El Paso Times and number four in the state in division 5A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, was given everything it could handle from a gritty Troopers team. Eastwood, who themselves are ranked number five in the city, was led by the efforts of senior captains Kevin Guereque and Edward Barrio as well as key contributions from juniors Chris Nobles and James Williams. Nobles, who led the team with 15 points, said after the game that the loss was encouraging to show Eastwood can go up against elite talent. “Our offense was flowing well and we definitely need to get better defensively but given they (Andress) are a top 5 team in the state, I think we did good."
The game started off at a slow pace with both teams struggling to find their shot in the first half. Both teams combined scored only 44 points in the first half. The Troopers led the scoreboard 23-21 at halftime. The second half, however, was a whole different ball game as both sides clearly picked up the intensity. The Troopers rallied behind a very lively home crowd and made a key 6-0 run in the fourth quarter (capped by a Guereque layup) to put them up 45-43 with 3:19 to play. The Eagles responded with a run of their own and led the game by 2 points with under 20 seconds to go. Then came junior guard Daniel Vargas who scored a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime. In overtime play, the Eagles and Troopers exchanged baskets back and forth before Vargas missed a last second three point attempt on a questionable no foul call to seal the loss for the Troopers.
Guereque, who scored 12 points and held Andress star Alvin Warren to 12 points on the defensive end, says this Eastwood team should make some noise this season. “We gained a lot of confidence in ourselves. There is a lot of room for improvement but I think we showed tonight we can compete with anyone in this city." Guereque, who was nursing a knee injury coming into the game, credited the Eagles for being a tough team. Eastwood was also without Heber Ovalles, a starter from last year who has a knee injury. “I think if we had all our guys we would have won, but that’s never an excuse. We still came out strong as a unit." Andress was led by Warren and Brian Hunter who scored 15 points in the game.
The Eagles move to 1-0 while the Troopers fall to 0-1 in the young season. The boys will now have a week off before tipping off against Canutillo next Tuesday for their first road game of the season.