By ZACH SMITH, Four Points News
For just over three quarters, Vandegrift and Langham Creek were locked in a dogfight in the first round of the playoffs. But then the lights quite literally went out, and the Vipers took off.
Following a lengthy delay to reboot the lights in the Vandegrift gym, the Vipers used a balanced scoring effort to pull away from the Lobos and win 52-44 in the bi-district round of the playoffs on Tuesday night.
“We have multiple threats on the team, and I think that gets overlooked,” senior Jake Hatch said. “It says a lot about how deep our lineup is.”
Senior McDonald’s All-American Greg Brown III finished with a team-high 14 points and 15 rebounds. He now has 2,967 career points, moving past John Ray Godfrey (2,963) for 20th on the Texas All-Time scoring list. He needs just five more points to pass Bryan Barns (2,971) for 19th place on the list.
Hatch finished with 12 points, Gabe Rayer added 10 points, Dom Chmura finished with seven points and Jed Will added five points – including a couple of key fourth-quarter free throws – off the bench.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids that can play and step up,” Vandegrift head coach Cliff Ellis said. “They’ve been doing that all year long. They go under the radar because Greg gets all the notoriety, but we wouldn’t be in this position without those guys stepping up the way they have.”
The Vipers outscored the Lobos 19-12 in the fourth quarter, finishing a perfect 11-for-11 from the free-throw line in the final period. Langham Creek guard R.J. Crawford scored 12 points on four 3-pointers to make things interesting late in the game.
Other than the final period, Langham Creek kept Vandegrift out of rhythm. The Lobos led for most of the second half and held Brown to just nine points through the first three quarters.
“They’ve got some really good athletes, and they were kind of frustrating Greg early,” Ellis said. “It’s not like we haven’t seen that kind of defense before, we’ve been watching it all year. We forced a lot of shots early. But once we got into a rhythm, we got layups and the looks we wanted.”
Vandegrift will face off against Aldine Davis in the area round of the playoffs on Friday night.
The Vipers lost two of their first six games of the regular season, but have been rolling ever since. They’re on a 28-game winning streak and won the district title outright for the first time in school history this season.”
When things got tense on Tuesday, the team leaned on each other, and continued their streak of success.
“We’ve been in that position about 17 times this year where we’re in a tight position at halftime and then we come out in the second half and do what we’re supposed to do,” Ellis said. “They shot the heck out of the ball. It was kind of one of those methodical games we had to get through, but we came out on the right end.”