Jimena Cortez is a whirlwind of energy.
The Arlington Sam Houston post is a dominant shot blocker, an adept rebounder and an intimidating inside presence. Oh, and she can also handle the ball and set teammates up for open shots with her passing.
About the only thing that can slow down the sophomore is an injury.
Cortez, the team’s leading scorer and the leading shot blocker in District 4-6A, fell to the floor while fighting for an offensive rebound in the third quarter of Sam Houston’s home loss to Arlington High on Jan. 19. She missed the rest of the game with an apparent ankle injury.
Coach Jannifer Bailey said after the game that Cortez was going to be evaluated to determine the severity of the injury. The Lady Texans lost their next game to Lamar.
Jimena’s always going down, but when she didn’t get back up, I started to get worried.
Sam Houston junior post Ofuchi Akpom
If Cortez is out of the lineup, it would be the latest setback for the Lady Texans. The team’s point guard was lost to an injury earlier in the season. And Bailey has had to deal with the recent death of her father. The coach and players have also struggled with illness.
“It’s been rough,” Bailey said.
At the time she got hurt, Cortez had scored 14 points, 12 in the first half, and was keeping Sam Houston in the game. But the Lady Texans only scored 10 points after Cortez left the lineup with just under three minutes to go in the third.
“Jimena’s always going down, but when she didn’t get back up, I started to get worried,” Sam Houston junior post Ofuchi Akpom said. “We always play together as a team. When she’s not in there, it throws everything off.”
Cortez showed off her value during a key stretch late in the first half. In the span of a minute, she grabbed an offensive and defensive rebound, and she scored by backing an opponent down in the low post. She also dished out two assists and stole a pass that led to the second of the two assists.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot compared to last year,” Cortez said after the game. While Cortez answered questions, she was seated on the ground in the bench area with an ice pack on her right ankle.
“I think it’s just I’m not as nervous anymore. I’m open to more opportunities.”
Cortez applauded her team’s level of hustle, which she felt remained high even after she left the game. Although she is counted on to be her team’s tone setter on both ends of the court, Cortez doesn’t feel like she has to constantly make a big play.
“It’s not that I feel like I have to do everything,” Cortez said. “We just could all collaborate more. If I can depend on them and they can depend on me, then I can just give them what they need.”
Arlington High coach Natasha Newsome praised Cortez’s skill and conceded that her absence in the fourth quarter was a factor in the Lady Colts’ win. “
Jimena’s a great player,” Newsome said. “She was tough for us to guard.”