Going into the NBA D-League Finals, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers had won fourteen straight games --- dating back to the regular season and through the early rounds of the playoffs.
But the Santa Cruz Warriors were sure to put up a fight, and they did. Though RGV hit their home court on Saturday night with a 1-0 lead in the series, the Warriors didn't make obtaining that clinching second victory an easy task.
Santa Cruz played gritty defense through the contest, pestering RGV and even coming up with some points off turnovers after playing the Vipers so well defensively. Perhaps only constantly on the cusp of a run of their own to take a commanding lead, the Warriors just couldn't do enough to fully catch up with the running and gunning RGV.
The Vipers' offense is fast-paced, and so versatile in the sense that they can hit opponents in a bevy of different ways. Glen Rice Jr.'s 25 points (to go along with 13 rebounds) came within the flow of the offense. Though he didn't shoot very well, his ongoing attempts kept Santa Cruz honest and allowed RGV to continue controlling the tempo (which they made sure was up all the way) throughout the contest.
Rice Jr. served as a steady running mate to D.J. Kennedy in the clincher. Though Kennedy had previously served as just another key cog in the Vipers' engine while Andrew Goudelock was in town, he's truly risen up as the NBADL star most know him to be with Goudelock now playing for the Lakers. Scoring 27 points to lead his team, Kennedy attacked the basket and got to the charity stripe effectively and often. A versatile performer at all times, the swingman also added 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Warriors would inch their way closer and closer to RGV throughout the game, but every time they did, the Vipers seemed to have an answer to shut down yet another potential run. An emphatic dunk by Mike Singletary (who scored 10 points off the bench) in the middle of the third quarter allowed the crowd to roar, and seemingly represented the type of hammer continuously brought down upon Santa Cruz every time they would come close.
The Vipers 102-91 win not only helped them earn the crown of NBADL champions, but also served as their sixteenth straight victory.