LYTLE - What a difference two years can make. Built on a belief and hard work, the Lytle Pirates have gone from quite literally worst to first.
The Pirates have won a school-record 27 games so far this season and claimed the District 30-3A crown with one regular-season game remaining. Head coach Jacob Hernandez has been the architect of the program's transformation.
"When I came, the senior class, I was their third head coach in four years," Hernandez said. "I really had to sell them on the vision I had for the program."
Now in his third season at Lytle, Hernandez has been impressed with the culture change.
"The same group of kids on this year's team were on that 2-27 team from two years ago. It was a lot of work we had to put in," Hernandez.
Last season, the Pirates ended a seven-year playoff drought with a bi-district appearance, going wire to wire with a Somerset team that advanced to the state tournament. That loss has served as the team's primary motivation this season.
"We were there with them (Somerset), so it kind of drove me to be like, 'Hey, we can do this,'" said senior forward Jociah Cruzzi, a UTEP commit.
Undersized by most standards, the Pirates use their speed to open things up for their shooters. It's led to not one, but two 1,000-point players in Cruzzi and Jorge Holguin. Accolades aside, this team says they still have plenty to prove.
"Our mantra this year is unfinished business," Hernandez said. "We've just stuck together, worked hard and stayed hungry."
"The playoffs are a totally different game. It's one game and if we lose, that's it," Cruzzi said. "We've got to continue to work hard and not think that we're better than other players and other teams."
The Pirates wrap the regular season on Tuesday at Jourdanton.
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