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La Vega center Kedrick James (left) fights for a loose ball with Connally’s Aaron Sisneroz (right) during the Pirates’ romp of the rival Cadets. James scored nine points on the night.

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

The La Vega Pirates used a swarming press to take control early and claim a key district victory over the rival Connally Cadets.

The Pirates’ defense seized control of the game early and La Vega pulled away at the end for a 76-48 victory over Connally on Tuesday night at a packed Connally High School gym.

While La Vega forced the Cadets into 25 turnovers, guard Amani Gibson sparked the Pirates on the offensive end. Gibson finished with 22 points, five assists and six rebounds.

Forward De’Andre Reese scored 21 to join Gibson in double digits for the Pirates. La Vega forward Kedrick James added nine.

Guard Trajan Snell scored 14 to lead Connally and Devin Miles pitched in nine.

With the win, La Vega (19-9, 8-2 in District 17-4A) edged into first place in the 17-4A standings with two games left in the regular season.

Connally (22-12, 8-3) appears headed to the playoffs, but the Cadets now need some help to grab a share of the district title.

Connally pulled within six points midway through the third quarter when Miles made a layup on an assist from Zailin Cleveland.

But La Vega answered with a 10-3 run to end the third, capped by Reese and Danta Stuart baskets, both on assists by Gibson. The Pirates extended the run into the fourth, making it an 18-3 surge that sent them coasting to the win.

La Vega gave up the rare points before the tipoff as the officials called a technical foul on the Pirates for dunking in pregame after the officials had blown the whistle.

Connally guard Sidney Hadden hit one of the two technical shots, spotting the Cadets a 1-0 lead before the tip.

But the Pirates quickly grabbed momentum once the first quarter officially started.

La Vega used a 12-0 run to jump to a 15-3 lead less than three minutes into the contest. Pirates forward Kedrick James had a put back and guard Amani Gibson nailed a trey and went into the lane for a basket to fuel the surge.

Gibson led La Vega with 14 points in the first two quarters.

The Pirates’ press forced Connally into 16 turnovers in the first half, helping La Vega take a 40-25 lead to halftime.

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