By ZACH SMITH, Four Points News
Vandegrift and Cedar Ridge claimed the final two playoff spots from District 13-6A after winning play-in games Friday night at Vista Ridge.
The Vipers held off a late charge from McNeil to beat the Mavs 40-37 in the first game of the doubleheader, while the Raiders jumped out to an early lead and pulled away late to down Westwood 59-36.
“I’m looking forward to their growth and their maturity, and we live to see another day,” Cedar Ridge head coach Kevin Lewis said. “As many sophomores and juniors that we have that have never been in a playoff game before, and to go through one tonight, that’s huge.”
Cedar Ridge won the coin flip for seeding and will be the No. 3 seed. The Raiders will face Langham Creek Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Vandegrift will meet Cy Ranch Tuesday at 6 p.m. Both games are set to be played at Brenham HS.
Sophomore Skye O’Rourke led Vandegrift with 19 points, and junior Kaya Pehrson finished with eight points.
Tierra Bell paced McNeil with 12 points – all via 3-pointers – while Allison Owens finished with eight points and Nadia Pouya added five points.
“They did a good job staying on us and mixing it up with the zone,” Vandegrift head coach Jonathan Jones said. “It bothered us. But we did a good enough job at the end. We’ve been talking about mental toughness all year, and I’m super proud of them.”
After a back-and-forth game in the first half, Vandegrift and McNeil slowed things down in the second half. The Mavs started the second half with four straight points, and the Vipers had two points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter.
McNeil took its first lead of the game with just over two minutes to go, outscoring Vandegrift 20-8 over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
But O’Rourke forced a turnover and finished a layup to give the Vipers the lead with a minute left, and the team went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to clinch a spot in the playoffs for the fourth time in school history.
“Towards the beginning of the second half, they went to a zone, and we rushed some shots,” Pehrson said. “Once we slowed down and started to play our game a little bit and played our game more, it was beneficial to us.”
After a strong start to the season, Vandegrift hit a rough patch during the middle part of the district schedule, losing seven of nine games. But the Vipers rebounded with three straight wins to end the regular season followed by Friday’s play-in win to enter the playoffs on a high note.
“We kind of had to get tough and start executing and playing tough,” Jones said. “Kudos to the girls because they kept practicing hard and paying attention to detail.”
In the second game of the night, Lexi Alexander finished with a team-high 20 points for Cedar Ridge. Alex Neimeth finished with 11 points, while TJ White and Mikayla Johnson each had six points.
Westwood was led by Anisha Chintala with 10 points. Annalise Galliguez scored seven points, and Desi Davalos and Ginna Grant both chipped in with five points apiece for the Warriors.
The Raiders buckled down in the second quarter, holding the Warriors to just six points to take a 22-point lead into the break. Westwood cut its deficit to 12 points after three quarters, but Cedar Ridge outscored the Warriors 17-6 in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half, we made it an emphasis to get it to our shooters if they’re open, and if not, drive, drive, drive,” Lewis said. “I’m really proud of this group, they’ve been through some adversity, on top of pressure they had put on themselves.”