Even if Nolan Mylet was given a red light sometime early in the fourth quarter, he was going to run right through it.
The Vandegrift junior scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Vipers pull away for a 68-56 win over Stony Point and clinch the final playoff spot from District 13-6A.
“I just like to find the good shot that I can take,” Mylet said. “I was hitting my shots tonight. I can shoot the ball, I just have to get that confidence up during the game. It just took a minute, but hopefully, we can keep it rolling in the playoffs.”
After starting District 13-6A play with five straight losses, Vandegrift won five of its final six games and six of the eight second-round games to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season.
“Some of the shots were ill-advised, but I can’t tell him no when he’s feeling it,” Vandegrift head coach Cliff Ellis said of Mylet’s fourth-quarter performance. “He did a fantastic job. We’ve had a string of that in the last few games of someone not named Greg Brown stepping up.”
Brown still led the Vipers with 26 points while Mylet finished with 22 points. Gabe Rayer scored eight points — all of which came in the first half — and senior Reece Watson finished with five points.
Deshawn Jackson paced Stony Point with 14 points. Seniors Quaylan Lomax and Jalen Moseley each scored 11 points, Jordan Carpenter scored seven points while Jaedan Cunningham and Grant El-Deir each scored five points.
“We’ve upset some good teams all year long, and obviously Greg Brown is a great player, but we were in the game,” Stony Point head coach Joshua Barnes said. “This is a tougher district than people may think. It’s not a pushover. There are some great coaches and players in our district.”
Stony Point fouled early and often, racking up six fouls in the first quarter. Brown made an impact on both ends of the court, with a couple of massive blocks and a team-high four first-quarter points.
The Vipers started to find their groove in the second quarter as five different players found the scoresheet. Lomax hit an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to help keep the Tigers within single digits at the break
Stony Point dominated the third quarter. A step by El-Deir led to a layup to cut the Vipers’ lead to one point and a steal and a layup by Moseley on the next possession gave the Tigers their first lead of the game.
“We kind of started playing flat and going through the motions, and the third quarter, we looked awful,” Ellis said. “We were trying to get cute and get on the highlight reel instead of playing team basketball, which is what got us the big lead.”
But Vandegrift went on a 10-1 run in the fourth quarter led by Mylet’s hot shooting and a 4-point play by Brown to put the game out of reach.
"We had expectations to try and get into the playoffs this year, and we lost some games we felt we could have won,” Barnes said. “We had a good senior group and it hurts when you can’t get them in.”
There are a few factors that went into the Vandegrift’s surge during the second half of the season. Ellis said they made a few personnel changes in the middle of the season that could have contributed.
The Vipers have been playing playoff basketball for the last three weeks, and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“In the long run, the kids started playing with joy and passion and started playing team basketball,” Ellis said. “The assists started going up and the turnovers went down. We’re not going to diminish what we’ve done the last few weeks.”