GONZALES — The Gonzales Apaches hosted the Runnin’ Apaches Winter Invitational over the weekend, as 15 teams were scheduled to participate in the tournament. Gonzales knocked off Woodsboro and TMI Episcopal, reaching the gold bracket. On Saturday, the Apaches lost to their rivals, the Cuero Gobblers and then lost their final game of the tournament against the state-ranked Moulton Bobkatz.
“The overall goal of the tournament was we wanted to get better,” Gonzales Head Coach A.J. Irwin said. “That was the objected. Let’s get better. I think we did that. You can see that [the kids] saw a glimpse of the vision we have within our program right now.”
The Apaches looked to be aggressive both on offense and defense this season and it showed during the tournament.
“We play ‘offensively’ both sides of the ball,” Irwin explained.
In their first game of the tournament, the Apaches played a close one against Woodsboro, winning 47-46. The Apaches were able to outscore the Eagles 12-3 in the final quarter.
“We had some slips here and there, we weren’t getting to where we needed to be on rotations,” Irwin noted. “But then we started seeing it, we started to get steals in the third quarter, we actually started getting the picks. We came back from the deficit.”
“We did a much better job of communicating,” he continued, “and looking up the floor to score in transition. We got a lot of transition points. Probably the most that we’ve had all season.”
Gonzales’ second game of the tournament was a blow out against TMI Episcopal.
“You can really see our guys figure the rotation stuff out,” Irwin said.
On Saturday, the Apaches opened up the gold bracket with a game against the Cuero Gobblers, losing 50-40. The team ended the quarter down 13-4. By the end of the half, the Apaches were down 13 points. Near the end of the third, Gonzales would be down 40-20 before a last second basket brought the deficit to 18 points.
“This has been a deal with us, it’s like we just dig a hole,” Irwin said. “We don’t start the way we finish, we always finish strong, but it takes us a quarter — maybe two — to get going.”
The Apaches would end the game on a 20-10 run, to lose 50-40.
“We have to start the way we finish. Even I say, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish, but we can’t start like we’re starting,” Irwin said. “The problem is we start so slow. And I have to do a better job of getting them mentality prepared to warm up properly, to do the little things like that correctly. It all starts in practice.”
The team’s final game was against Moulton, currently a state-ranked team in Class 1A. Again, the Apaches were plagued with a slow start, going down 12-2 early on before ending the quarter down 26-12. The closest the Apaches got was down 14 late in the third, but ultimately the team could not dig themselves out of the hole they left, losing 62-45.
“That’s a sound 1A team,” Irwin said of Moulton. “I expect them to be at the state tournament. We played a good ball club.”
The head coach highlighted a few players who played well in the tournament.
“Trevion [McNeil] has a great tournament. First time he had a dunk in the game, and he got two [Friday],” Irwin said. “Matthew [Velasquez-Banda] is really coming around in terms of his ability to be the floor general. Jose Niño is being a great ‘small’ power forward, because he’s a shorter guy, but he is muscle. “I.G.” [Isiah Franklin] had a great day, he had a great Friday.”
Irwin went deep in the bench during the tournament, mainly because of the amount of games, but the head coach isn’t opposed to going that deep during district play.
“I’m playing everybody with a jersey,” Irwin said. “If you can go, I’m putting you in. my big thing on that is guys who play will have to produce. I don’t want you to just exist, you have to produce. When guys are producing, they are going to play.”
The Apaches took on Waelder at the AT&T Center in San Antonio Monday afternoon, though results were unavailable before deadline. Gonzales will be on winter break until the Bay City Holiday Tournament from Dec. 29-30.