The Santa Cruz Warriors failed to start the second half of the 2016 NBA D-League regular season with a win, losing both games in their first back-to-back series post-All-Star break.
The struggles only continue for the Santa Cruz Warriors, who found themselves on the losing end twice in row this past week after being defeated by the Los Angeles D-Fenders (18-16) at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, CA, on Thursday night, then later by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (18-15) at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz on Friday night.
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With the two consecutive losses, the Sea Dubs drop to a regular season record of 12-22, which puts them in last place in the Pacific Division and second-to-last place in the Western Conference.
The game in Los Angeles went the distance as the Warriors were able to rally in the fourth quarter, ultimately coming up short. The game began highly competitive, with the D-Fenders earning a five-point lead going into the second half despite Darington Hobson scoring 12 in the second quarter.
The D-Fenders would increase their lead to as many as 20 points in the third quarter, completely outscoring Santa Cruz. The Warriors, however, remained adamant, coming as close as three points with a little more than four minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately for the Sea Dubs, their effort just wasn’t enough to make up the difference, resulting in a 113-103 loss to LA.
LA’s Justin Harper led all scorers with 34 points to go with his 11 rebounds, notching a double-double by night’s end. Ryan Gomes also recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Vander Blue contributed 28 points to the D-Fenders’ home win.
Getting back to the Northern California, the Warriors looked surprisingly impressive in their first quarter against Rio Grande Valley, ending the first quarter down by two. It wasn’t until the conclusion of the first half that the Vipers were able to pull away, establishing a 15-point lead going into the locker room. The Warriors proved unable to mount a comeback down the stretch, losing 116-100.
Terrence Drisdom was the scoring leader for Santa Cruz, tallying 21 points. Aaron Craft recorded 16 points on the night, while Verdell Jones III dropped in 15 points.
Jordan Hamilton, coming off the bench for the Vipers, led all scorers with 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Right behind him were Will Cummings and Jaron Johnson, who helped out to score 22 points and 15 points, respectively.
The biggest news Friday night was the 2016 regular season debut of Xavier Henry, who’s been out of the lineup for much of the season working to get back from injury. He recorded 14 points to go with his four rebounds, two blocks and one assist, shooting 6-for-10 from the free throw line.
Although Henry was unavailable for postgame interviews following the team’s loss to the Vipers, head coach Casey Hill spoke highly of Henry’s debut performance while noting he’s still only at “80 percent” and therefore on a minutes restriction.
“I was happy with his aggressiveness,” said Hill. “I mean, the fact that he got to the line 10 times in 15-16 minutes is pretty good.”
Henry’s return to the hardwood couldn’t come at a better time, especially with Elliot Williams now playing ball for Panathinaikos in Greece. Williams was forced to miss the 2016 NBA D-League All-Star Game due to the signing of his deal happening prior to All-Star Weekend.
In addition, Henry’s veteran presence will hopefully help bring some stability to a roster that has seen a rather significant number of modifications as of late. Mac Koshwal, Daniel Coursey, and Terrence Drisdom are all relatively new to the team, and Daniel Nwalele and Aaron Craft have both just recently returned to the rotation.
Seeing how Hobson steps up with Williams now overseas will also be an interesting storyline of which to keep track, as well as whether Kevon Looney will see anymore time down in Santa Cruz before the NBA postseason hits.
Santa Cruz will hit the road again, looking to get revenge against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Tuesday at 5:00 PM/PT.