It's no secret that Round Rock is a dangerous offensive team, but when the going got tough against a surging Vandegrift squad, it was the defense and patience that won out.
The Dragons withstood a late push from the Vipers by controlling the tempo and game on offense and playing a frustrating defense, holding on for a 62-57 win Friday night on the road to move into sole possession of second place in District 13-6A.
"This is by far our biggest win of the year," Round Rock head coach Brent Murphy said. "We were extremely gritty on defense and we had five guys locked in knowing where Greg Brown was at all times. I'm not surprised because we played hard, but that could have gotten away from us. I think we're fortunate."
Seth Ford hit seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead the Dragons. Ryan Ward finished with 16 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line while Carson Asbery had six points.
Brown had 31 points for Vandegrift. Gabe Rayer had nine points and Reese Watson and Jake Hatch each added seven points.
The win pushes Round Rock's District 13-6A record to 8-3 and the Dragons have won three of the last six games. Vandegrift falls to 5-7 despite having won five of the last seven games. The Vipers are in a virtual tie with Cedar Ridge and Stony Point for fifth place with just over two weeks left in the regular season.
"Overall, we as a team forced a lot of stuff and kind of got out of our game plan," Vandegrift head coach Cliff Ellis said. "We started not making the passes and got really stagnant on offense. That's a tough win to win basketball games."
The intensity was at a high level before the game even started, as the packed student sections from both schools chanted back and forth. Both stands emphasized the momentum swing throughout the game.
The Vipers turned the ball over quite a bit in the first quarter, and the Dragons were solid from long range - led by Ford with a quartet of 3-pointers. But Vandegrift eliminated the turnovers and Round Rock cooled off from long range and went into with just a one-point lead.
After finishing three quarters knotted at 46 apiece, the Dragons went on a little run in the fourth quarter to build a small but commanding lead.
But Vandegrift got a couple defensive stops and Watson hit a second-chance 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points with under a minute to go. But the Vipers turned the ball over late with just over 30 seconds left and Ward made a pair of free throws to officially put the game out of reach.
In the fourth quarter especially, the Dragons frustrated Vandegrift with their efficiency on both ends of the court.
"That's been an ongoing process," Murphy said. "We've got guys that love to score and love to score quick, so that's a hard concept. For them to go out and kind of slow things down and run the offense, I was really proud."
Round Rock hosts another surging team when Leander comes to Round Rock on Tuesday night and it travels to face off with Stony Point next Friday and hosts Cedar Ridge on Feb. 5.
Vandegrift is at McNeil next Tuesday night before hosting Westwood next Friday night and traveling to face off against Leander on Feb. 8 folioing their bye. The Vipers know they need to win the next four games fight for a playoff spot.
Can they respond with their backs against the wall?
"We're going to find out," Ellis said. "We have no other choice. We've got to win the last four without question to give ourselves a reasonable chance at (the playoffs). We don't care what spot, we're just fighting for a spot."