Santa Cruz Warriors lose four of five in holiday road trip

Santa Cruz Warriors Head Coach, Casey Hill, postgame
Santa Cruz Warriors Head Coach, Casey Hill, postgame /

Santa Cruz Warriors drop four out of their five games away from home over their holiday road trip.

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The Santa Cruz Warriors are no strangers to the season of giving, but they unfortunately proved too generous over the holidays after giving up four out of five games away from Kaiser Permanente Arena. Santa Cruz remains at .500, however, with a record of 10-10 on the season.

The road trip began after a 104-82 loss against the Los Angeles D-Fenders on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Verdell Jones III continued his high level play, leading Santa Cruz with 16 points. Behind him was Juwan Staten, who recorded 15 points on the night, while Daniel Orton tallied 12 points.

Despite their best efforts, the Warriors were ultimately unable to stop the frontcourt tandem of Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly, who were both on assignment from the Los Angeles Lakers. Black ended the night with a double-double, dropping in 25 points and 14 rebounds. Kelly nearly had a triple-double, recording 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

Thus began Santa Cruz’s road trip, with its first stop being against the Rio Valley Vipers. Elliot Williams, bouncing back from his nine-point effort against Los Angeles, led all scorers with 29 points, adding in nine rebounds. Santa Cruz finished the game against Rio Valley with six players in double-digit scoring, including Ronnie Brewer (17), Daniel Nwaelele (15), Darington Hobson (14), Jarred Shaw (13), and Verdell Jones III (10).

Even with half the team scoring in double figures, the Warriors were unable to get over the hump in the final seven seconds of the game, losing 107-103 after Brewer was unable to get the go ahead layup to drop. Rio Valley finished with six players of their own scoring in double-digits, led by Houston Rockets assignee, Montrezl Harrell (20). K.J. McDaniels, also on assignment from Houston, had 12.

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Santa Cruz then hit the road again, this time traveling to nearby Austin, TX in what was to be a back-to-back series against the Austin Spurs. Santa Cruz went into the back-to-back with just eight players available, as both Williams and Orton sat for both games.

The Warriors dropped the first contest 111-92, but not without Nwaelele tying his career-high 25 points in his first start of the season. Hobson was close to a triple-double, dropping in 23 points, seven rebounds, and six assists on the Spurs, while Jones and Shaw recorded 14 points apiece.

Santa Cruz kept the game competitive for the much of the night, fighting back and forth with Austin in the first three quarters. Led by Atlanta Hawks assignee Tim Hardaway Jr., however, the Spurs put together a fourth quarter run for which the Warriors had no answer. The Spurs finished with six players in double figures, led by Hardaway’s game-high 30 points.

The story remained the same on the back-end of the back-to-back with Santa Cruz losing 109-80. Hobson was once again just shy of a triple-double, recording a game-high 20 points to go with his eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Shaw tallied 19 points, while Brewer added in 13.

Paced by Hardaway’s 18, the Spurs completely dominated the Warriors in their second meeting. Austin began the game by holding Santa Cruz to 39.1 percent shooting from the field while establishing a 16-point lead, which was extended to 25 by the end of the first half. Austin went up by as much as 31 in the third quarter and 35 in the fourth quarter, sweeping Santa Cruz in the double-header.

The Warriors made their way up north hoping to bounce back from their time in Austin, but they found themselves yet again without Williams and therefore lacking offensively. The result was a 104-87 loss to the Maine Redclaws, which had six players in double-digit scoring. On assignment from the Boston Celtics, Maine’s Jordan Mickey posted 17 points. Orton was the leader for Warriors, recording a game-high 22 points.

For the first time this season, the Warriors found themselves below .500, sporting a record of 9-10 going into their next game against the Westchester Knicks. Williams, for the fourth straight game, remained confined to the bench, but four seemed to be the magic number for the Warriors on Sunday night as four Warriors players were able to make up for the absence of their leading scorer by each recording 20+ points.

Orton was again the leading scorer for the Sea Dubs, recording a team-high 23 points to go with his eight boards. Nwaelele, Hobson, and Jones each tallied 22 points. Westchester’s Jimmer Fredette led all scorers with 27, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo had 17 points in Westchester’s 116-105 loss to the Warriors.

The Santa Cruz Warriors will return to KP Arena for the 2016 NBA D-League Showcase, which will be held Jan. 6-10 in Surf City. The Warriors will have two games during the Showcase: one against the Iowa Energy on Jan. 8 at 7:30 PM/PT, and the other against the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Jan. 9 at 7:30 PM/PT. 

Also of note: over the holiday season, the Santa Cruz Warriors welcomed newcomer Terrence Drisdom. The 6-foot-5 guard out of Cal Poly Pomona was formerly drafted by Santa Cruz last October in the 2015 NBA D-League draft, but was waived prior to opening night.

The Warriors re-acquired Drisdom out of the NBA D-League available player pool after trading away Juwan Staten to the Delaware 87ers for a 2016 fifth round draft pick last Thursday.