By Bret Schanzenbach
Vista High School’s gymnasium was packed to the gills on Friday night as the cross-town rivals Rancho Buena Vista Longhorns came to play for city bragging rights and the Avocado East title. This once heated rivalry had become decidedly one sided over the past few years as Vista High surged to become one of the county’s elite teams on an annual basis. RBV has had a resurgent season this year as it amassed a 24-3 record heading into Friday’s action. Three week ago the Longhorns finally beat the Vista hex and knocked off the Panthers at home on their way to an 8-1 conference record. That stopped a 13 game winning streak the Panthers held over the Longhorns in intercity match ups. Vista entered the evening at 19-8, with a matching 8-1 league record. Since the Longhorns upset the Panthers three weeks ago, both teams had Friday night marked on their calendar for the rematch.
The Panthers came out with their aggressive defense and up tempo style in the first quarter and raced to a 19-11 lead. Then Vista poured on the pressure and ramped up their game to another notch in the second quarter. Hitting 7 three pointers in the second quarter, Vista assumed a 47-26 halftime lead. RBV’s Jack Bailey got the Longhorns back within reach early in the third quarter has he hit back-to-back three pointers. But the Panthers answered back and maintained their lead, ending the third quarter with a 61-42 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns showed their mettle and came storming back. Every time they looked beaten down, they responded and repeatedly cut the lead to single digits. But Vista was not to be denied on this night and prevailed by a score of 84-74. Jordan Hillstock lead all scorers with 39. He repeatedly hit big three point shots, or drove to the basket for contested layups. With less than 3 minutes to go, and RBV threatening once again, Hillstock not only scored, but he stayed back court, stole the inbounds pass and made an exclamation point dunk to move the game out of reach once again. Overall Vista had 4 scorers in double figures. Matthew Rivera and Carter Starnes had 13 each and Kai Morris chipped in 11. The Longhorns had balanced scoring with four players in double figures as well. Patrick McLachlan and Zee Willis lead the team with 20 each. Jack Bailey finished with 15 and Jason Danso added 11.
Both team now wait to see their CIF seeding and matchups for the playoffs. RBV, despite the loss has secured a number 1 seed in Division II. Vista is hoping once again to reach the “Open Division” and compete with the top teams in the county. Both team are hoping for deep runs in the CIF tournament to receive births into the state playoffs.