Senior Bryan Nicholas jumped to grab a rebound, had nowhere to land his feet and fell hard on his back with an audible thump that aroused gasps from the crowd at La Joya Community High.
The same fall might have kept most players down and limping back to the sideline to seek training. Nicholas took a deep breath, got up, adjusted his jersey and ran back on defense. That sort of fall was nothing new for the Lobos basketball forward. He experienced far worse just months before on the football field.
“My team needed me, so I got up and played through the pain,” he said.
Nicholas and point guard Alfred Jordan are the two leading scorers for the Lobos this season, averaging 13.2 and 11.7 points, respectively. They were also both major senior contributors on La Joya’s football team; Nicholas at safety and Jordan at running back and corner.
Jordan’s quick drive through multiple defenders to hit a contested lay up in the dying seconds of the Lobos’ 58-56 win over Boulder Creek on January 17 looked scarily similar to a rushing touchdown on the gridiron.
Last football season is a sore subject for La Joya, though. The Lobos went 7-3, and won six of their last seven games, in 2018. However, they were left out of the 16-team 6A playoff bracket, behind several teams with worse records.
The perceived snub serves as motivation for the basketball players.
“I’ve got a big chip on my shoulder because we got snubbed from the playoffs by teams that were 3-7 or 4-6 and so on. In my head, that really hit me hard. It shows how underrated La Joya really is, so when basketball started, it was time to turn up,” Nicholas said.
The football elimination joins other snubs from playoff contention. La Joya basketball missed the playoffs last season, and even a chance at a play-in game, despite a 13-9 record.
Coach Roger Lefebvre said the senior football players – and the rest of the team – are hoping to create their own success by reaching the postseason this year.
“They’re trying to make their way now, make their legacy. They want one of those,” Lefebvre said, pointing to the championship banners on the gym wall. “They haven’t experiences playoff basketball because they missed it last year.”
After the win against Boulder Creek, the Lobos were 13-6 with six games remaining in the season. Ranked 15th in 6A with just weeks left, La Joya said the goal is to win as many games as possible, leaving no chance the Lobos are left out of postseason contention.
“We just have to put much more work into practice and games and with each other, so we can compete and win games. Then, people will have to notice us,” Jordan said.
Regardless of how the season ends, Lefebvre said he is proud of the way the 2018-19 team has competed with and for their brothers.
The athletes, football players and otherwise, have some of the best chemistry and “togetherness” he has seen in his many years of coaching. The Lobos hope that takes them far.
“Our kids are tough. We have grind-it-out Westside kids, La Joya kids,” Lefebvre said.
“That’s all I can ask for.”