Pirates fall 57-54 in hard fought game

Lytle sits in second with a district record 11-2 behind undefeated Poth. Dilley is close behind at 10-3 and Lytle took them on last night. They will close out the season against West Campus (1-10) on Friday, February 11th, and their last game will be at home against Karnes City (4-8) on February 15th. Beating Dilley will keep the Pirates in 2nd but a loss will tie them with Dilley. Dilley still has to play Poth for a second time before district ends. Overall the Pirates are 20-6.
Tuesday night in Cotulla, Lytle’s Jordan Balderas topped off to Malakai Castro and then Balderas pushed in for the lay-up. Cotulla played with more aggression than in their first meeting and with Lytle short a few players, the Cowboys remained tight with the Pirates. Tied at 8-8, Jalen Guevara sank a three-pointer and then stole the ball on the Cowboy drive for another lay-up. Fouled while making a basket, Balderaz turned the basket into three points with a free-throw. Lytle took the first at 16-10.
Guevara made the first two points in the second. Jose Cortez was next to score for the Pirates. A three-pointer from Castro put Lytle up 23-10. Bryson Duty followed that with a hook shot from under the basket. Another three-pointer from Guevara put Lytle up 28-12. Lytle continued to power through the Cowboys and took the half 34-12.
Continuing their half court press in the third, Lytle stopped their drive and held them to just 2 points in the quarter while scoring 14. In the first two minutes of the fourth, Lytle put the offensive pressure on and controlled the ball. Now up 55-14, Cortez sank a jumper from inside the key. Cotulla found the basket a few times but it was not enough to close the gap and with just a minute left, Lytle led 69-23. The Pirates slowed down the pace of the game to run out the clock and win it 71-23 for their 11th district win.
“Down a few players, we decided to not press and just play solid half court man defense and every Pirate available to play mastered the game plan beautifully. Seniors Caleb Wood, Jose Cortez, Emanuel Garcia and Juniors Jordan Balderaz, Malakai Castro, Jaelen Guevara, and Eli Vega executed the defense all night and held the Cotulla Cowboys to only 12 points by the end of the third quarter. Offensively, Junior Jaelen Guevara led all scorers with 26 points while Junior Malakai Castro added 16 points with 12 points being from the 3-point line,” said Coach Jacob Hernandez.
In the second Battle of the Pirates this season, the Lytle Pirates won the tip-off, but Poth was first to score. This game would decide who would be the district champion. A lay-up from Malakai Castro put Lytle on the board. With the game getting a little more physical, Daniel Aguirre ran in for a short jump shot and Lytle led 4-2. Lytle stayed one basket ahead the first few minutes of the game. Tied 8-8, Poth found a hole to take the lead. On the next possession, Jordan Balderas faked a shot to pass to Castro to tie the game back up. Snagging a loose rebound, Castro took the ball to the basket for the 12-10 lead. With just over a minute left, Castro and a Poth player grabbed a pass, Castro was stronger and ripped the ball away causing the Poth player to hit the ground. The referees stepped in quickly and separated the two teams. A technical was called on Lytle for the aggressiveness and Poth missed both of their free-throws. The wild first quarter ended 15-12 in Lytle’s favor.
Lytle opened the second with a free-throw from Jalen Guevara, but on the next Lytle scoring attempt, Bryson was called with an offensive foul. He did not let that discourage him, as he was key to moving the ball down court in the next few plays. Balderaz rebounded and was fouled to add three to the board, 19-12. A time out was called after a three from Duty put Lytle up 24-12. Poth did not score until there was less than a minute left in the half. Poth added one more basket at the buzzer but ended the half down 16-25.
The third quarter started after a Poth supporter came out onto the court to have a few words with the referee. After the discussion ended, Poth inbounded the ball to start the half. Balderas scored first through many Poth defenders and then Guevara made a lay-up. Throughout the third, Lytle had to work hard to maintain their lead and Poth slowly closed the gap. With just under a minute and a half left, Guevara stole the ball and stopped short to open up the shot but also earned a technical for something after the basket. Eli Vega took a hard fall after a Poth charge. The third ended with Lytle up 44-35.
With 8 fouls to their name, Lytle would have to watch themselves in the fourth. Poth found their shot and after two minutes, they had closed the gap to 7 points. Both sides of the stands were lit up after a call put the ball back in Lytle’s hands. At the four minute mark, Lytle’s lead had shrunk to just 3 points, but they were not giving up. Balderas sank a jumper off the rebound to make it 48-43. Poth was within 1 but Balderas sank a free-throw and then on the next play Guevara made a layup to make it 51-47. Two minutes left, with Balderaz out on fouls, Caleb Wood came back into the game. The game would continue to be close with fouls being called frequently. Up by only 1, a foul was called on Lytle and the Poth player sank both free-throws to take the lead. 35 seconds left; Coach Hernandez called a full time out. A bad pass gave the ball back to Poth under their basket. Fouling on the inbound pass, Poth made only one of their free throws. The game ended in Poth’s favor at 57-54.
“The boys had the lead the majority of the game but key turnovers in the fourth and missing 14 free throws throughout the game eventually helped Poth get the win. Although the boys fell short of winning a district title this year, they have secured a playoff spot and will be going for a 4th straight bi-district championship with a win in the first round of the playoffs. Our expectation has always been to win in the playoffs so the boys know they must continue to work over the next two weeks to reach that goal. A huge thank you to the Lytle Community for coming out and supporting both boys and girls by filling every seat possible on the home side. As a head coach, I was proud to see our student body come together to build one of the best student sections I’ve seen here in Lytle over the past few years. The student section gave the game a playoff and college atmosphere feel to it. Finally, congratulations to the Lady Pirates who pulled out a great victory over Poth, and will definitely beat Dilley to reach their goal of back-to-back district titles. Way to go Lady Pirates!” said Coach Hernandez
By Dicy Chambers
Sports Writer