Vipers’ win streak snapped; League suspends play

EDINBURG — Chris Clemons’ 3-point shot at the buzzer missed its mark and the RGV Vipers fell in a wildly exciting 128-126 contest to the Iowa Wolves on Wednesday at Bert Ogden Arena.

“At the end of the day, we were in that situation because of the way we played the first 24 minutes, not the last 24 minutes,” Vipers head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said. “Chris got a good look and took the shot. We’ve just got to bring it all 48 minutes.”

That has been a common comment from Abdelfattah throughout the season that looked as if it had been cured during the previous few games.

The loss ends a modest three-game win streak the Vipers had put together and drops their record to 15-27 with eight games remaining in the regular season. They need to win five of those remaining games to record 20 wins, something they’ve done every year since joining the G League.

League and team officials initially said there would be a conference call with the G League this afternoon to decide what the league would do in regards to the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. But the G League issued a statement late Wednesday night to say it would suspend the season.

During Wednesday’s game, the NBA announced it would suspend league play until further notice.

As the coronavirus buzz ran wild around the arena, the Vipers were doing the same on the court. After trailing by as many as 22 at 93-71, RGV went on a ferocious 38-15 run. A Clemons 3-pointer brought the Vipers to within 108-107 and, on the next possession, Clemons was fouled driving to the basket and sank a two-point free throw, giving the Vipers their first lead with 9:09remaining in the game.

The teams traded baskets and were tied five more times in the quarter. Clemons, who finished with 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting (3-of-11 from 3-point land), scored seven straight points, the final three coming from several feet beyond the arc for a 122-121 lead with 1:54 remaining.

Both teams had opportunities during a three-minute span to grab a lead and extend it, but a series of errors on both sides eliminated that opportunity. Isaiah Taylor missed an easy layup, Clemons turned the ball over on a sloppy pass and then tossed an alley off to 7-footer Isaiah Hartenstein on a 2-on-1 fast break that was out of the big center’s reach.

Clemons pulled the Vipers to 126-125 with 52.1 seconds remaining, making three straight free throws after being fouled beyond the arc. Hartenstein, who scored 26 points in the first half but was limited to five in the second half, then converted one of two free throws to tie the game.

Former Vipers forward Jarred Vanderbilt then scored for Iowa on a reverse layup for a 128-126 lead, setting up the final Vipers’ play.

Shawn Occeus continued to gain more playing time, logging 27 minutes of play for the Vipers. He scored nine points, pulled down six rebounds and blocked three shots.

“Shawn is the one guy who brought it for the entire 48 minutes,” Abdelfattah said. “He had a couple key blocks, did a good job defensively and brought the energy. He played great defensively and I liked his effort.”

Clemons finished the game with 29 points, and Brandon Sampson came alive with 20. The Vipers shot 45.7% from the floor while Iowa connected at almost 55%.

The Vipers have two more home games this week. They are scheduled to play Capital City on Friday and Salt Lake City on Saturday. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. starts.