By Alfredo Vasquez
ANTHONY – Going undefeated: 20 and 0… Wow! Completing a regular high school basketball season without losing a game is a remarkable accomplishment, no matter what level of competition. And, the only team in El Paso County to pull it off this season is the boys varsity squad from Anthony High School in Anthony, Texas.
As the AHS players prepare for the playoffs, the whole community is enjoying the win streak ride. “We are all really proud of these student-athletes. We’ve watched them grow up,” said Town of Anthony TX Mayor Martin Lerma (AHS Class of ’95).
The AHS Wildcats enter the post-season contest as two-time champions in their District 2A division. Last year, they went into the playoffs after posting a 12 – 7 won/loss record. Their season ended in the first round with a hard-fought game against Hawley High School.
This year, there is an air of confidence among the players and coaches that has them feeling like they could advance deep into the UIL (University Interscholastic League) post-season tournament, which begins February 22.
AHS varsity basketball head coach Lali Maldonado, who is in his second year at the helm, said that his players are a well-tested team that beat not only all of its division opponents during the regular season but also defeated some of this region’s top programs in pre-season matchups including such high schools as El Paso, Cathedral, San Elizario, Lydia Patterson, Fabens, Clint, and Tornillo.
The Wildcats’ surging confidence is founded on their defensive play, according to Maldonado. “We have a good nucleus of kids, and our starting five players are really good,” he said. “We play a man-to-man defensive scheme the entire game,” stated the coach, “a full-court press just about the entire game, sometimes we switch to a 1-2-2 matchup or a 1-3-1 trap, but it is almost always a man-to-man defense.” Assisting Maldonado is coach Dale Bohannon, who also works with the boys junior varsity team.
AHS’s starting lineup consists of guards Beto Alaniz, a 5’9″ junior, who runs the team from his point position, and Abel Ortiz, a 5’8″ sophomore, who is the key defensive player on the squad. At forward is Bryan Au, a 6’3″ junior, who is averaging 26 points per game and is considered one of the best players in the county. The other forward is Andrew Guerrero, a 6′ junior, who is the team’s most consistent three-point shooter. Then, there’s Fernando Reyes, a 6’4″ sophomore, who plays center skillfully and has developed into a strong rebounder and shot blocker.
Coming off the bench are: Guillermo Lemus, a 6’4″ senior; Isaiah Montanez, a 5’7″ junior; Brandon Espinos, 5’8″ sophomore; David Wyrostek, 5’7″ sophomore; Joe Belmontes, 5’8″ sophomore; and Adrian Gomez, 6’3″ sophomore.
Maldonado said that AHS is scheduled to start its playoff run against the fourth place team in District 5-2A, Tuesday, February 23, at a neutral site. At this point, the opponent had not been determined yet; however, the coach seemed to think that it might be Seagraves High School, which is located near Lubbock; and according to the Maldonado, AHS’s first round game will probably be held in Pecos TX or Carlsbad NM.
AHS varsity boys will be going into this first playoff game on a big high after huge performances in their final two regular season home bouts, that saw them crush Van Horn High School 102 to 25 and destroy Fort Hancock High School 78 to 19. In the Van Horn game, Au scored 42 points. In the final game, he had 27 points and Alaniz scored 19 points.
Team leader Alaniz said, “If God allows it, we could go far in the playoffs. We are tough in moving the ball around on offense, and we can get into our opponent’s face and stick with him on defense .”
Au asserted, “Our strength is our defense, and that is what makes us a great offense. We have a lot of communication during the game, and we all play with heart.”
Throughout the season, the community has shown its support by filling up the bleachers at home games and by sending a large contingent of fans to away games. “AHS is my high school, and the boys basketball team’s success means a lot to the town,” stated the Anthony mayor.
“I have gone to every game this season, and at least 50 of us supporters have gone to all of the away games,” said Lerma, “I enjoy watching them play because they play as a team. They don’t let anything distract them.”
Plans are in the works to provide bus transportation for the fans to the first playoff game. Lerma said that team followers each usually pitch-in a nominal fee to rent a spirit bus from the district and that this game trip would be the same. For information about joining the spirit bus group, contact Lerma at (915) 472-3473.