Boys Basketball Destroys Tiger Tie, Secures Playoff Spot

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Dakota Prukop completes a drive to the basket against Dripping Springs last Friday night at Lake Travis High School.

K.C. Grimes, Asst. Sports Editor

Friday, February 17th, the varsity boys basketball team met the Dripping Springs Tigers at Lake Travis High School for a tie breaking “play-in” game. The Vipers lost to Dripping Springs at home earlier in the season, and later won at the Tiger’s home court. Whoever won the tie breaker would secure a playoff spot. This same team was the first to reach playoffs in a team sport in Vandegrift history. Having missed playoffs last year and lost in the bi-district round in 2010, the team and especially seniors, fought hard for a post-season.

“To prepare for each game, we watch film and have a team shoot-around, and usually watch an inspiring movie like 300 a couple hours before the game,” Matt Dang said.

On a foggy and rainy night when even soccer was cancelled, what better to do than watch basketball? This is what many Viper students and parents seemed to think as the home stands of the Lake Travis High School gymnasium quickly filled to capacity, nearly a third of the stands composed of rowdy students standing and cheering for the entirety of the game.

“MVP was most definitely our crowd. The true 6th Man in the bleachers really made an impact in the game,” head basketball coach Coach Ellis said.

The Vipers were led out by starters John Hirschhorn, Matt Dang, Nick Florence, Dakota Prukop and JT Graham, all of whom are seniors and veterans on the varsity team. With early points, the Vipers dominated the start of the game on offense and scored many unanswered points. A high amount of fouls increased tension on both ends of the court and even in the stands as fans began to pressure the officials. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Vipers held a 28-18 lead.

In the 2nd quarter, both teams still fought for a high tempo in the game as points on the board increased quicker and fouls became more frequent. Only three minutes into the quarter, both teams were in double bonus, calling for a slow remainder of the half. As the clock slowly made its way to the end of the half, the Vipers maintained their lead with a score of 39-29.

“That was by far the best I’ve ever seen us play. It was a total team effort. Every player on the floor seemed to be running faster, jumping higher, and shooting better. I think the do or die situation and the crowd intensity really brought out our competitive greatness,” Coach Ellis said.

After an intense and loud Viper chant of “I believe that we will win!” that shook the whole gym, the Vipers exploded out of the gate offensively with multiple unanswered baskets and scaring Dripping Springs into an early timeout. Vandegrift soon found and held a safe 16-point lead throughout most of the quarter with minimal fouls. Going into the 4th quarter, the Vipers led 54-41.

“The crowd makes a huge difference in the game! They are like a 6th man for the team,” Matt Dang said.

The tempo briefly switched sides as the Tigers fought harder to regain lost ground, though they never managed to get ahead. By the middle of the 4th quarter, the Vipers had stomped out the Tiger’s fire and regained their strong 16 point lead. In the final minutes bodies were literally were being thrown left and right for the Tiger’s last ditch effort, but it was no use. The clock ticked out for a Viper win of 70-50.

“On the court we had a total team effort for four quarters which made us successful.” Coach Ellis said.

At the end of the game, three Vipers had over 10 points, with another three closely behind. The foul count was high, but was matched on both teams. The victory secured Vandegrift’s place in the 4A playoffs, putting them against LBJ for the Bi-District title Tuesday, February 21st, at 7:30 at Westwood High School.

“That was the best we have played in three years. The team was focused on the task at hand, we executed our game plan and most importantly we played with an intensity that was difficult for our opponent to match. I think we played our best when our best was needed,” Coach Ellis said.