BRAWLEY – The Brawley Union High Wildcats (6-15 overall, 1-3 league) boys basketball team faced off against long-time rival the Central Union High Spartans (14-7 overall, 3-0 league) in an Imperial Valley League battle, ending with the Spartans defeating the Wildcats, 46-41.
Central's Jacob Vargas led with 18 points, Seth Johnson finished with 14 points, and Kaleb Flores added seven points.
"We started off a little slow, but our momentum picked up in the second half," said Vargas, a Spartan point guard. "It was a really close game, they came out to fight but it is like this every year, we always compete well against each other."
The Brawley offense had Mario Chiordi leading the 'Cats with 15 points, Alex Suarez added eight points, and Andrew Suarez finished the game with seven points.
The familiar foes started close, with the Spartans edging the Wildcats by a two-point margin, 8-6, at the close of the first quarter.
Wildcat Dominic Vallejo scored a three-point shot to give his team the lead, 17-16, and the momentum necessary to maintain the lead until halftime. Chiordi scored 12 of the Wildcat’s 19 points in the second quarter.
The Wildcats headed into halftime leading 25-18.
"We controlled our game, we played our game, and they just came out on top," said Wildcat point guard Noah Cervantes. "Lots of people came out so there is a little extra pressure, but we put up a good fight and we gave it our all."
After the third quarter tip-off, the Spartans' defense kept the Wildcats at bay while they caught up, evening the score 25-25 with 4:08 left.
"We came in and our heads weren't in it, so we had to settle down, focus, play hard, good defense, and take the open shots that we had," said Seth Johnson.
The Spartans gained a two-point lead over the Wildcats, 34-32, heading into the fourth quarter.
After a back-and-forth to start, the Spartans were up 41-37 with 3:32 left.
Wildcat Noah Cervantes made a free throw, and fellow teammate Raine Reeves scored a three-point shot to tie the game at 41-all, with less than two minutes left.
"Our bond is our strength," Cervantes said. "We are like brothers out there and we are getting better together on rebounding, communicating, and just getting those shots in."
Vargas solidified the Spartans' win after finishing 4-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final minutes of the game.
"As we progress through the season, we are just looking to compete, give 110% all the time, and come together as a team every game," Johnson said. "There is pressure, but, we just have to keep on competing."
This game marks the second consecutive comeback win for the Spartans' boys basketball team.
The Spartans will return to the court on Tuesday, January 24, as they take on Southwest Eagles at the Eagles gym in El Centro at 7 p.m.
The Brawley Wildcats will host the Calexico Bulldogs on Thursday, January 26, at the Wildcats' gym in Brawley at 7 p.m.