The Banquete Bulldogs boys varsity basketball team suffered a setback on their quest to the postseason last Tuesday when lead scorer Richard Gonzalez fractured his leg near the end of regulation in the team's game against the Skidmore-Tynan Bobcats.

"Yeah, he went up for a rebound, I guess, or did a lay-up," Banquete head coach Kevin Kelley said. "I didn't watch the film, I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it yet. I think he said he was going up for a lay-up, other people said he was going for a rebound.

"Anyways, he just came down. He didn't hit anybody or roll off somebody's foot. He just came down kind of crooked on that leg and just snapped it, both bones, like somebody just took a knife. I mean, it was so clean a break. I saw the x-rays and it was like someone just took a knife and just sliced right through the bone. It was just a straight edge."

The accident occurred with 53 seconds in regulation and Banquete trailing by six points. After Gonzalez fell, the game was immediately stopped as the teams and crowd waited for emergency services.

"It took a long time," teammate Corey Nava said.

"Man, he laid on the floor for 30 minutes," Kelley said. "We couldn't move him. The place was packed. It was a full house almost. He laid there and the ambulance didn't get there for 30 minutes, something like that. It seemed like an hour, it might have been less, but it had to have been close to 30 minutes.

"Robstown's ten minutes away, Bluntzer's got an ambulance service over here, they're five minutes away. I mean, come on, turn on the lights and get here. It shouldn't take that long. You've got a kid on the floor, man. I thought he was going to go into shock or something. He was in a lot of pain."

The Bulldogs would go on to tie the game, 59-59, and send it into overtime. Banquete eventually pulled out the victory in double overtime, 70-67.

Gonzalez was taken to Christus Spohn Memorial in Corpus Christi, where he underwent surgery on his leg. Kelley, many of his teammates, family and friends, and even players from teams in the district paid him a visit while he recovered from surgery.

"Taft did a good thing," teammate Matt Crook said. "Some of their players went up to go see Richard and wish him well. So did Skidmore."

"Everybody was real nice," Kelley said. "The Skidmore fans, their team and coaches have been really good. They sent him a big basket of candy and a card signed by all of the players and we've had a lot of calls from parents and administrators from over there."

As of Monday, Gonzalez had been released from the hospital and is recuperating at home before returning to school within the next few days.

"Right now, he's got a thing around his leg and he's got rods going through it," Crook said. "They just have him on medicine for when he gets uncomfortable. They said that in eight to 10 weeks he should be back and he probably will be back to school some time this week, like Wednesday or Thursday, on crutches."

With their leading scorer out, the Bulldogs now find themselves having to change their starting lineup, and their game, just as they begin district play and their push for the playoffs.

"Now we've got a big challenge ahead of us," Kelley said. "We're going to have a target on our back from here on out. People are going to be coming for us, man. They're going to have their 'A' game going and they're going to be coming for us. It's going to be hard to maintain what we've been doing. I mean, I have confidence that we can beat every team in our district. We've just got to play."

Taking Gonzalez's spot in the starting rotation will be Adrian Rios, who has been mainly an outside shooter for the Bulldogs.

"It just getting used to no Richard because he used to slash, that's how he was," Nava said. "He's a slasher, and (Rios) is a shooter."

"It's different for the defense because when Richard would slash, that would keep the defense in and we would have more room to shoot," Crook said. "Now, the defense doesn't really respect the drive because we don't drive that much without Richard."

Still, the Bulldogs believe it's just a matter of getting used to the new lineup.

"I mean, it's not really a drop-off without Richard because we're still going to have opportunities to score, but it's definitely going to take some getting used to," Crook said. "I think we'll get it by this week."

Kelley said that Rios was one of the quickest players on the team and could have been starting the whole year.

"But any one of our kids are capable of being starters," he said. "On most teams you have five distinct kids, maybe six, and the rest are definitely bench players. They come in and play their role and you depend on your first five or six guys. But not here. I think they're all interchangeable. If I don't want to start one, I feel confident in putting another in his place in any position. That's the reason we're (doing so well). We got a deep bench and everybody's pretty equal."

Kelley said that one of the strengths of the team was how close they are.

"They've been playing together for years," he said. "They know each other and it's a tight group. These kids are real close with each other. The whole team. Every one of these kids is real tight with each other. We're a big family. That is what we are. We're all like brothers. These are like my little brothers and we're tight. And it's showed this year.

"So when Richard went down, it really hurt us all real bad. But I think everybody's going to rally behind that he went down and now we've got to go out and win for him."

Banquete won their first game without Gonzalez Friday night against the Odem Owls 47-41. They currently hold a 21-1 record and are 3-0 in district play.

While it will take some time for Gonzalez to recover fully, Kelley said the clean break he suffered would probably heal well enough to allow the junior to return to the team next season.

"Hopefully, we'll have him back for next year," Kelley said. "This is killing him."