SAN ANTONIO — They’re baaack.
Judson ISD teams Judson and Veterans Memorial, who both advanced to the UIL girls basketball state tournament last year, are in the Region IV semifinals again.
Judson (34-5) plays Laredo United (34-6) in the Class 6A regional at 8 p.m. Friday at the Northside ISD Gym. Edinburg (33-8) meets Clark (32-2) in the other 6A semifinal at 6 p.m. on the same floor. The winners clash for the regional title and a berth in the state tournament at 2 p.m. Saturday at the NISD Gym.
Veterans Memorial advanced to the 4A state final in its first varsity season last year. The Patriots didn’t skip a beat when the University Interscholastic League moved them up to 5A this year.
Veterans Memorial (30-6) plays Corpus Christi Carroll (29-8) in the 5A regional semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Littleton Gym. Kerrville Tivy (33-1) goes against Victoria West (26-6) at 8 o’clock in the other 5A semifinal. The title game is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Littleton Gym.
Coached by Triva Corrales, Judson is within two wins of reaching the state tournament for the third year in a row. The Rockets made the state final for the first time last season after advancing to the state tournament for the first time in school history in 2017.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Corrales said Thursday, reflecting on the road to this season’s regional tournament. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, look at what you’ve got. It’s probably easy getting there.’ But it really is now. It is so hard staying on top. It requires almost double the amount of work. We lost so many key ingredients to our team last year, losing our post players. I had zero post players.
“We had to adjust our offense. We got faster. That’s a positive with our guard play. But a lot had to be adjusted and tweaked, and at the high school level, it’s not easy to put in a whole new system. It’s not like we can go out and get players at the positions we need. It’s very difficult, but they’ve adjusted and accepted their roles. Our seniors have been the main ingredient of all this falling into place.”
Judson is led by three players who have signed with Division I schools – Kyra White (Southern California), Corina Carter (New Mexico) and Tiffany McGarity (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).
The Rockets beat Laredo United twice during the regular season, 61-56 in the Austin Bowie Tournament on Nov. 9 and 66-57 in the Border Olympics Tournament on Dec. 1 in Laredo.
“They’ve got an outstanding team,” Corrales said of United. “Believe me, we’re not taking them lightly. We only beat them by five and nine points, so our players know we’ll have to be ready to play. We’re expecting United to play a great game.”
Judson is in its ninth season under Corrales, who has led the Rockets to district championships in each of the past four seasons and five overall.
Veterans Memorial beat Denver City 57-51 in the 5A state semifinals last year and lost to Argyle 60-41 in the title game. Three, or half, of the Patriots’ losses this season have been to Tivy, which swept Vets in District 26-5A (54-41, 55-51) and rolled to a 51-30 win in the Floresville Tournament.
“Carroll has a good all-around team,” Patriots coach Christina Camacho said. “They’ve got good guards. We’ve got a good game plan for them.”
Junior Sahara Jones, who already is being recruited heavily, is Veterans Memorial’s top player.
One of the storylines heading into the state tournament last year focused on the special bond Corrales and Camacho share. Corrales, 43, played for Camacho in middle school and high school, and was her top assistant coach at Wagner for five seasons before becoming head coach at Judson in 2010.
Camacho, 55, was 0-4 in the state tournament before last year’s victory against Denver City. She guided Wagner to the semifinals in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015, but came up empty each time.