Weber shines in return to Valley as RGV Vipers lose to Sioux Falls Skyforce

HIDALGO — After receiving an inbounds pass with four seconds to play in the third quarter, Briante Weber took two dribbles and sent a pass from midcourt to Matt Williams Jr. in the right corner. When Williams knocked down the 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give the Sioux Falls Skyforce a commanding 12-point lead, Weber sprinted toward the RGV Vipers bench. Standing just a few feet from a group of players he had called teammates for the first 13 games of the G League season, Weber screamed in celebration.

“I was just like, ‘Good find, Bri,’” Weber said after the game. “I wasn’t really talking to them. I’m not worried about them. It was more just me, being emotional.”

Weber said he played Saturday’s game with a chip on his shoulder, remembering how he had been released on Jan. 15 after beginning the season on a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets.

He finished his return to State Farm Arena with a near triple-double of 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, and his find to Williams was one of the highlights of a 25-3 run that lifted Sioux Falls to a 147-133 win against RGV.

“It just meant to come here and try to channel my emotions and get the win for my team. That’s all I can do,” Weber said. “I try not to be too buddy-buddy. Those guys are my brothers, so it was hard not to. But at the same time, inside those lines, I’m gone. I’m just going to go get it, no matter what.”

RGV Vipers coach Matt Brase said he didn’t speak to Weber on Saturday. Rockets two-way player Markel Brown — who was signed on the day of Weber’s release — said Weber lived up to his reputation of being talkative on the court. R.J. Hunter, also on a two-way contract with the Rockets, said he respects Weber but knew they would spar verbally on Saturday. If anything, Weber said he presented a toned-down version of himself against the Vipers. He added that he has no hard feelings toward the organization, saying “that’s just business.”

“I talk all the time,” Weber said. “Being on the other side, I’m never going to channel my talking. It made me want to lock in more. I actually talked way less than I usually do, just because I want to lock in a little bit.”

Weber helped orchestrate an offense that shot 58.8 percent from the field, including a 65.3-percent clip in the second half. From beyond the arc, Sioux Falls shot 46.2 percent for the game and 58.8 percent during the final 24 minutes, totaling 18 3-pointers.

Ike Nwamu scored 37 points on 9-of-16 3-point shooting, while Kadeem Jack scored 28 points on 13-of-15 shooting. Tony Mitchell added 24.

The loss is the Vipers fifth in the past six games, dropping the team to 19-14.

“There has to be some individual searching on how they can get the job done. Just poor effort all throughout,” Brase said. “We have to make sure all five guys are doing their job, and if not, you have to come out of the game. There are only so many options and so many buttons you can push, and you hope guys figure it out.”

The Vipers led 92-87 with 3:36 to play in the third quarter before Sioux Falls scored 12 straight to take a 99-92 lead. That run stretched to 17-2, 25-3 and eventually 31-5 to give the Skyforce a 118-97 advantage with 8:30 to play.

Sioux Falls led by as many as 23 points in the final quarter.

“We can’t focus for 48 minutes right now, and that’s our biggest problem,” Hunter said. “We’re playing as individuals, and you won’t beat anybody in this league. Teams are way too good. Players are way too good.”

Hunter was RGV’s standout on Saturday, scoring 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting and 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. He also notched a season-high 13 rebounds and added seven assists.

Hunter was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter after shouting and pumping his fist in the direction of an official following a blocking foul against Chinanu Onuaku. Brase was also assessed a technical during the fourth quarter.

“The refs have been pretty bad for us at home. I’m just going to keep it honest,” Hunter said. “We’ve been putting up with it. We’ve been playing through it, but we can only put up with so much. We’re human. That’s not right, man. We’re at home, and we’re getting the bad end of a lot of calls. That’s not right.”

Brown was involved in a minor altercation at the end of the game, as a group of players from both teams gathered around the Sioux Falls bench following the final buzzer.

With a double-digit lead, Sioux Falls scored on a dunk with 29.7 seconds remaining, another dunk with 17.1 seconds to play and a 3-pointer with 0.9 on the clock.

“Just out of respect for the game, you’re supposed to hold the last shot when you’re up by 20,” Brown said. “Shooting the ball, just out of respect for the game, you’re not supposed to do that.”