SAN ANTONIO — Sharyland Pioneer’s historic season came to an end Friday night with a 71-65 loss to San Antonio Harlan in the Region IV-5A semifinals, but they didn't go down without a fight.
“They played great. If I ask them if they left their souls out there, you will see their souls out there, because that’s the way they played. I’m so proud of them. It just didn’t go our way today,” Sharyland Pioneer head coach Rene Gonzalez said.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, Derek Luna and the Diamondbacks fought their way back to deliver a thrilling fourth quarter, cutting Harlan’s lead to two with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Luna, Pioneer’s senior guard, came out guns blazing from the opening tip as he dropped 20 points in each half for a game-high 40 points. From beyond the arc, from inside the paint, and at midrange, Luna was money Friday night.
“I was just giving it my all knowing there’s a possibility it may be my last game,” he said.
Following Luna’s lead, the Diamondbacks all responded coming out of the locker room for the second half. Lavar Lindo converted a huge and-1, Miguelangel Gonzalez became a scoring-threat, Ethan Lee drilled a corner 3 to cut into the lead, Eddie Lee Marburger and Luke Padilla turned up the defensive intensity, and Darik Briseño won a couple 50-50 balls.
“I told them at halftime, ‘Give yourself a chance at the end of the game,’ and that’s what they did, they gave themselves a chance to win the game,” Gonzalez said.
Forced to foul to get the ball back with time running out, Harlan nailed its free throws to escape with a six-point win. Playing in front of their home crowd at Northside Sports Gym in San Antonio, the Hawks were led by Zarion Pitre and Elijah Lomas as they finished with 22 points apiece.
But neither of them could match Luna. Double-teams, traps, whatever Harlan threw at Luna, he had an answer for, and the Diamondbacks fed off his play.
“I’m proud of our guys. We showed that we never quit,” Luna said. “Us boys from the Valley don’t get that opportunity, and I feel like we did a good job. We didn’t come out with the win in the end, but I’m still proud to be part of what we did this year.”
The best season in Sharyland Pioneer’s six-year history ends in the fourth round of the playoffs. The Diamondbacks won the District 31-5A championship by going 14-0, then won three straight playoffs games by double-digits against Mercedes, Corpus Christi Miller and Corpus Christi Veterans. Pioneer finished the year with a 28-7 record overall.
“It was an amazing season. They set the standard for the rest of the players coming up in the following years,” Gonzalez said. “We had high expectations throughout the whole season, and these guys helped us build it. It was a tremendous season. They’re bummed out, but one team’s got to win, one team’s got to lose. I’m so proud of what they accomplished.”
Although Pioneer’s run is over, Luna said he’s proud to have gone to battle alongside teammates he played ball with since their days in grade school.
“I’m proud to be a part of what we did. Growing up, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Doing it with these guys made it a lot better, a lot of fun, and I’m excited to be a part of what we did here at Pioneer this year,” Luna said.