SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (8-6) came up clutch in a nail biter against the Santa Cruz Warriors (10-4), winning 96-95.
Houston Rockets assignee, Isaiah Hartenstein had 22 points on the night and a team season-high 23 rebounds in only his second G League appearance this season with Rio Grande Valley. He also dished out five assists and blocked five shots on his way to a monstrous performance.
The Santa Cruz Warriors managed a 23-19 first quarter lead but the damage could’ve been much worse as the Vipers allowed an unprecedented 13 turnovers. Rio Grande Valley kept pace with the Warriors and didn’t allow their mistakes to bury them.
As the action resumed in the second quarter of play, a different Vipers team came out onto the court. The Warriors allowed the visiting RGV team to outscore them 32-25. Hartenstein went to work in the first half, claiming a double-double with his 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Vipers went to the locker room with a 51-48 lead. Santa Cruz’s top performer at the half was two-way player Damion Lee who had 16 points and three rebounds.
Santa Cruz was unable to stop the attack in the third quarter. Brandon Sampson had 15 points, four boards and four assists as the third ended. The Vipers already had several players in double-digit, and didn’t look to slow down. The Warriors continued to be aided by Lee who tallied 24 points through three periods. Antonius Cleveland was a big contributor for Santa Cruz, as well, with his 18 points by the end of the third.
In what turned out to be the most exciting quarter of the night, the Vipers clinched the win on a Bruno Caboclo layup. Despite outscoring the visiting Rio Grande Valley Vipers 26-19 in the fourth, the Warriors were unable to capitalize in the final seconds of the contest and dropped a heartbreaker at home.
For the Warriors, Lee was the leading scorer with 29 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
The Vipers will return to action at 11 a.m. Thursday at Bert Ogden Arena, as they take on Delaware Blue Coats. For more information, contact the RGV Vipers at 956-56-ARENA or visit www.rgvipers.com.