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High school hoops: McDonald, Cadets dunk rival Pirates in district battle, 45-39

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The La Vega versus Connally boys’ basketball rivalry has produced all manner of games throughout the years — barn-burners, nail-biters, blowouts and slugfests.

The latest edition lacked much drama and neither team filled up the basket. But it had one defining moment at the Connally High School gym.

Connally senior guard Jelani McDonald gathered in a loose ball at mid-court with no one between him and the basket. Everyone in the gym knew what was coming and McDonald delivered with a windmill dunk that brought a deafening roar.

McDonald’s big slam came during a fourth-quarter 8-0 run for the Cadets that paved the way for their 45-39 victory over La Vega in District 23-4A action.

Connally guard Kobe Black capped the fourth-quarter run with an inside basket that put the Cadets (19-4, 2-0 in district) ahead by 14 with less than three minutes remaining.

La Vega’s Qwae Willis and Amir Gibson hit the Pirates’ first two 3-pointers of the game in the closing minutes, but they couldn’t get much closer. La Vega fell to 14-9 on the season and 1-1 in 23-4A.

McDonald and Black each finished with nine points to lead a balanced Connally scoring effort. McDonald hit double digits in rebounds with 11. Cadets freshman forward Jamarian Vincent was another bright spot as he came off the bench to score eight.

La Vega’s Willis led all scorers with 11.

Connally’s Kiefer Sibley nailed a corner 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter to send the Cadets to the fourth with a six-point advantage.

La Vega guard Monta Hilliard cut that back to four with a pair of free-throws early in the fourth.

But Connally went to a spread-it-out stall-ish offense for the first part of the fourth quarter, making it difficult for La Vega to cut into the home team’s lead.

Then the Cadets turned on the afterburners with about four minutes remaining in regulation and left the Pirates behind.

University 45, Killeen 42

KILLEEN — The Trojans put in a workmanlike effort to pull down a three-point District 22-5A win over the Kangaroos.

Dre Rutledge led University (11-14, 4-2) with 10 points and nine rebounds, while London Smith chipped in nine points and five assists. University will host Waco ISD rival Waco High on Friday.

GIRLS: No. 3 La Vega 80, Connally 32

Both the Lady Pirates and Lady Cadets deployed full-court presses to constantly harass each other. But La Vega’s pristine passes and sharp shooting touch won out.

The Lady Pirates, who began this week in the top 10 of both the Texas Girls Coaches Association and Texas Association of Basketball Coaches rankings, took control from the jump as they held Connally to four points in the first quarter.

La Vega’s Kiyleyah Parr, Angela Carroll and Sydney McKinney scored seven, six and five points respectively in the first half as the Lady Pirates went to the break with a 39-17 lead.

La Vega didn’t let up after the break despite delving deep into its bench. The Lady Pirates got a barrage of fast-break buckets in the third quarter to extend their lead past 30 points and made the final period a mere formality.

For the game, Alaysia Gude topped balanced La Vega with 11 points, while Andrea Johnson, Solange Loadholt and Kya Mitchell had 10 apiece.

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