Vista Ridge hands Vandegrift first district loss, stay in title race

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Nikki Cardano-Hillary wanted to go out on top in her last game at the Vista Ridge gymnasium.

The senior guard scored a game-high 35 points and the Lady Rangers held on to beat Vandegrift 61-53 Friday night to had the Lady Vipers its first district loss of the season and move with half a game of a co-district championship.

“It’s our last game here and we wanted to go with a win,” Cardano-Hillary said. In the last game against them, we knew we could play better. Yeah, it was a little revenge. But it was sweet revenge.”

Katie McKie added 18 points for Vista Ridge and four other Lady Rangers got on the scoresheet. Loren Goddard paced Vandegrift with 19 points while Madison Byrne scored 15 and Ella Diablos and Natalie Goddard each scored five points.

The Lady Vipers have clinched at least a share of the district title for the first time in school history after their win against Leander on Tuesday and were a perfect 11-0 in district play before their lost to the Lady Rangers.

“I’m so proud of our girls and what they did this year, Vandegrift head coach Jonathan Jones said. “The way that they fought in this game, they showed why they’re in this kind of position.”

Vista Ridge led by almost 20 points after three quarters before the Lady Vipers went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to as little as five points. But Vista Ridge 12-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win.

“We’re fortunate because we get to play Vandegrift now and Hays next week and we’ll see what happens after that,” Vista Ridge head coach Keith Allen said. “We just want to get better at this point. We still need to improve before the playoffs start and playing a team like this helped us improve.”

Vandegrift needed a last-second 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to make it an 11-8 game despite some stout defense by Vista Ridge. Cardano-Hillary scored on back-to-back turnovers and McKie hit her second straight 3-pointer to end the half and the Lady Rangers went into the break leading 32-14.

The Lady Vipers won both quarters in the second half, outscoring the Lady Rangers 16-13 in the third and 23-16 in the second, but it was too little, too late.

Vista Ridge lost to Vandegrift 81-77 on Jan. 10, the only district loss for the Lady Rangers in more than two seasons.

“The first time we played we did a good job of absorbing the defensive pressure and attacking,” Jones said. “They rattled us. I was proud of the way we fought back at the end. In the fourth quarter, they’re started playing like I know they can.”

The regular season is over for Vandegrift. Vista Ridge has one game left when it goes on the road to face Hays Tuesday night at 7 p.m. with a win clinching at least a share of the district title for the third straight year.

But the Lady Rangers still know they can get better.

“We turned the ball over a lot tonight and those are things we can improve on,” Allen said. “Sometimes we’re in the press longer than other times. Tonight it was giving us something. But credit to them for making a run. They played hard.

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