By: HENRY MILLER
(MERCEDES) — When Carlos Esteve hit a 3-pointer from the wing to kick off overtime, it was the first lead of the game for St. Joseph’s.
It was all the visiting Bloodhounds needed, outscoring Mercedes 5-0 in the extra period en route to a devastating 56-51 come-from-behind victory in the first round of the C.E. Vail tournament at Mercedes High School on Thursday.
After St. Joseph’s hit another basket to make it 56-51, Mercedes coach Rick Trevino took a timeout and stayed away from his team’s huddle.
“I stayed away for the first part to see if they would talk to each other; if someone would step up,” Trevino said. “I had been tough on them all game to see if a leader was going to emerge – and it didn’t happen.”
Mercedes led by as many as 24 points, 34-10, with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Jordan Ovalle. That was the eighth 3-pointer by the Tigers in the game. They finished with two more for a total of 10 – and missed on four attempts in the overtime – as the St. Joseph man-to-man pressure tightened up and caused Mercedes to turn the ball over several times with errant passes.
Mercedes, which lost to St. Joseph by 25 in a previous match-up earlier this season, came out with revenge on their mind. The Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead behind a 3-pointer and an offensive rebound put back from both Jay Ayala and Brandon Lozoya.
During a timeout on that opening run, St. Joseph’s head coach could hear quite clearly across the court telling his kids “I told you they were going to come out like this – they’re not going to be a pushover this time.”
The Tigers continued to pour it on and St. Joseph’s didn’t score until there was 1:57 remaining the first. After one quarter, Mercedes led 15-3.
Ovalle connected on three more 3-pointers in the second quarter as Mercedes pushed its lead to as much as 21, 29-8 with 1:43 remaining in the second. Ovalle’s final 3-pointer of the period came from about 5-feet beyond the arc at the top of the key and Mercedes looked well on its way to a win, leading 29-10 at the half.
“The first half showed the potential we had, and the second half showed our youth,” said Trevino, who starts three sophomores and two juniors. “The youth and inexperience were questioned everywhere and St. Joseph’s is a veteran team that put a little more pressure on us.”
The Bloodhounds outscored the Tigers 46-17 after being down 34-10. Even then, Mercedes had a chance to win the game. Caleb Arthur was fouled with 16 seconds remaining and the game tied at 49. He hit both of his free throws and St. Joseph’s hurried the ball down the court.
With four seconds remaining, the Bloodhounds got a good look at the basket for a three but missed. Marte Rodriguez got the offensive rebound and put it back in as the buzzer sounded to push the game into overtime.
“That second half was more of the team we saw earlier this year with St. Joseph’s,” Trevino said. “With the tighter defense and the offensive rebound. We had opportunities to win, but couldn’t’ putt it off.”
Ovalle led the Tigers with 22 points, followed by Jay Ayala with 15.
Mercedes lost the second game in the tournament later in the day to Victoria, 80-77 in double overtime.