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Apr. 18—Caite Esquivel goes all out every time she steps on the court for the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Lady Chargers.

Esquivel was a standout on a loaded Lady Chargers roster that went 22-4, earned another District 32-5A championship and reached the second round of the playoffs. She led the team with 326 points, averaging 14.2 per game, and with a whopping 264 total rebounds. Esquivel also dished out 39 assists, swiped 59 steals and recorded 31 blocks.

She is The Brownsville Herald’s 2020-21 All-Metro Girls Basketball Most Valuable Player.

“This title means a lot to me. It’s surreal. I never thought I’d get to this moment in my life,” Esquivel said. “It was in the back of my mind, but I was more thinking about winning and making my teammates better. Having this was so unexpected, and it’s the cherry on top of this season.”

Esquivel was named co-district MVP with teammate Bryanna Buitureira. As a freshman, Esquivel was the All-Metro newcomer of the year. She said her basketball IQ has improved from year to year, and she credited an array of people for helping her become such a highly recognized player.

“So many people have contributed to my success. I couldn’t have done this on my own,” Esquivel said. “My dad and my mom are my biggest supporters. They’ve done so much for me. All of the staff at Veterans has helped me so much, and all of my teammates have been a major part.”

Outside of Brownsville Veterans, Esquivel puts in extra work with trainer Chris Vasquez and basketball coaches Arnold Martinez and Gabe Garcia. Lady Chargers coach Arnold Torres said her confidence and mentality on the court sets her apart.

“Caite’s hustle and positive attitude is something you can always see on the court,” Torres said. “She’s throwing herself on the floor, going after the loose ball, fighting for the rebounds. Seeing her determination and her hard work and effort on the court is something I think is really special.”

Esquivel said the awards she received as a junior will push and motivate her to be even better as a senior. But more than being a great player, Esquivel strives every day to be the best captain for the Lady Chargers. The confidence that comes from being named MVP will help her leave a lasting impact in her final season.

“I want to be a captain that my teammates can rely on. I want to encourage them to be better than we were yesterday,” Esquivel said. “Ever since my freshman year I’ve had upperclassmen that motivated me to become the player I am today. And now that I’m at that level, I want to be that person for everybody else.”

Offensive Player of the Year: Lucia Gonzalez, Brownsville St. Joseph

Lucia Gonzalez is the engine that led the Brownsville St. Joseph Lady Bloodhounds to the TAPPS 5A Elite Eight.

The junior guard averaged 14.5 points per game, knocked down 24 3-pointers and dished 37 assists en route to a TAPPS all-state selection. She is The Herald’s All-Metro offensive player of the year.

“It’s a great honor. I was not expecting this,” Gonzalez said. “My teammates helped me out a lot this year. Without them, their motivation and support I would not have gotten this award. They’re great teammates.”

Gonzalez said her shooting improved a lot this year. She took on more of a shooting guard role, which opened her up to hit her favorite type of shot: 3-pointers. Gonzalez drove through opposing defenses fearlessly and contributed non-stop energy to her team.

Lady Bloodhounds coach Robert Moreno said Gonzalez is already leading the charge to get herself and her teammates better over the summer in preparation for her senior year. He praised Gonzalez’s deep offensive skillset and said they’ll be focusing on her defense to make her a more all-around player going forward.

“She is the key to our team. She brings a lot of energy, great captain and just a great basketball player,” Moreno said. “She’s always been a very good offensive player. She’s got the vision on offense to pass the ball when she needs to or take it to the basket. She’s got the ability to do it all.”

Gonzalez thanked her coaches for pushing her to be at her best. She had two special teammates this year, twin Ale and senior sister Emma, who she credited for pushing and motivating her “to play at the best of my ability.” The Gonzalez twins will be headlining a strong group of Lady Bloodhounds returning to build on SJA’s stellar season.

“Most of my teammates are coming back next year, and I want it to be a great senior year with them,” Gonzalez said. “(This award) gives me a lot of confidence. I want to go even farther last year. I’m already getting them together to start preparing for next year.”

Defensive Player of the Year: Sarahi Jones, Los Fresnos

Los Fresnos junior Sarahi Jones set out to be a better player and leader for the Lady Falcons this season, and her hard work came to fruition.

Jones was a top contributor on both ends of the court and shined particularly bright holding down the paint. She pulled down 106 defensive boards, blocked 26 shots and recorded 51 steals while scoring 9.5 points per game. Jones is The Herald’s All-Metro defensive player of the year.

“It’s an honor, honestly. I’m at a loss for words, but I’m proud of myself and the work I’ve been putting in has just been paying off,” Jones said. “I just really wanted to produce for the team this year. Last year I was struggling a bit with rebounding against the bigger girls in the Valley, so during the offseason I was working on it.”

Lady Falcons coach Rebecca Valdez knew since middle school that Jones had a high ceiling. Valdez said something clicked to make Jones take things up a notch this season, and she feels the DPOY award will continue to boost Jones’ confidence and make her even better as a senior.

“This year she came out and said, ‘Coach, I want to be better.’ She came out with something to prove and she was a big presence in the paint. She was our true leader this year, so I’m really proud of her and she deserves this honor because she’s been working her butt off,” Valdez said.

Jones said her favorite contribution was blocking a shot when guards were driving to the basket. This award is a motivator for Jones, and she’s thankful for a number of people who have continuously motivated her to be a better player and leader.

“It’s great earning this as a junior because I have one more year, so it just motivates me to work harder than I have been and help my team out more,” Jones said. “I just want to say thank you to my team, my coaches, my family for being there for me. Valdez really helped me come out of my shell and grow as a player, and all my teammates, too. They’ve been there for me, and I’ve gotten a lot better with them.”

Newcomer of the Year: Andie Lozano-Lomeli, Brownsville Pace

Making a varsity team as a freshman is no easy task, but that hasn’t stopped Andie Lozano-Lomeli.

She was a standout for Pace in volleyball and basketball, earning District 32-5A newcomer of the year honors in both sports. For her strong debut season that saw her record 115 rebounds, 91 blocks, 17 steals and 3.6 points per game, Lozano-Lomeli is the All-Metro basketball newcomer of the year.

“It feels really great,” Lozano-Lomeli said. “It was definitely a big surprise for me. (Varsity basketball) was a lot to step into. It’s so different from middle school, just a different level. The upperclassmen were really good big sisters to me, and they showed me the ropes of the team. I want to thank them for all their help.”

Lozano-Lomeli’s 91 blocks are a new single-season record for the Lady Vikings. She credited coach Eddie Lozano and assistant Delma Hernandez for teaching her about the post position and making her a better player.

“It felt really great because my whole life I’ve really just loved blocking. It’s really fun for me, and I love the hype after you get a big block for your team,” Lozano-Lomeli said. “Basketball has never been natural for me. Lozano had to really work with me on post moves. He’d show me moves before practice and tell me to work on them at home.”

Lozano called the 5-foot-11-inch freshman the anchor for Pace’s defense. He believes as she continues honing her defensive skills and developing on offense, she’ll become an even better asset for the team.

“She was a pleasant surprise this year,” Lozano said. “She earned her minutes just by doing the little things. When she came in, I told her, ‘All I need from you is rebounds and blocks,’ just to ease her mind. And she gave me those rebounds and those blocks. She earned my confidence and, most importantly, her own confidence. … She definitely made strides in building that foundation. We’re looking forward to a lot of good things from her over the next three years.”

Coach of the Year: Arnold Torres, Brownsville Veterans Memorial

Brownsville Veterans Memorial was state-ranked for much of the 2020-21 season as it cruised to the District 32-5A championship and an impressive 22-4 record.

The Lady Chargers notched a 17-game winning streak and rose to No. 20 in the TABC poll and No. 22 in the TGCA poll. Arnold Torres was named the district coach of the year for his leadership at Brownsville Veterans, and for the second consecutive year, he is The Herald’s All-Metro coach of the year.

“Receiving this honor is a blessing for me because we have a lot of great coaches in the Valley and the Metro area,” Torres said. “But that honor is a reflection of my coaches, my family, the players. I don’t do this by myself. … My wife and my kids are always supporting me, and that makes a big difference.”

Torres credited his assistant coaches, players and school administration for this “program award.” He said a lot of factors go into the program being successful, and when the team does well, accolades and recognition come along.

Torres praised his players, past and present, for accepting the concepts he brought into the program and putting in a lot of work to make the Lady Chargers a model of consistency.

“We’ve been very blessed to have some talented athletes that buy into the program,” Torres said. “That’s why Veterans has been successful, because the girls have come in and worked, and they believe in what we’re doing. One of the things that we try to emphasize is our defense. We want to try to be more defensive-oriented and push the ball a little more, try to get easy baskets in transition. I think they’ve enjoyed that quicker pace.”

Esquivel called Torres a motivator as a coach and as a teacher, and said playing for him has been “the best.”

“Not only is he an amazing coach, he’s an amazing person. He motivates me both on and off the court. He’s a great coach, and I’m so grateful to have him in our program,” Esquivel said.