Santa Cruz Warriors Lose Back-to-Back Series v. Oklahoma City Blue

Mandatory Credit: Angelo Mendoza, Blue Man Hoop, Fansided
Mandatory Credit: Angelo Mendoza, Blue Man Hoop, Fansided /

The Santa Cruz Warriors played a back-to-back series against the Oklahoma City Blue, losing both games.

More from Warriors News

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Santa Cruz Warriors came up short this past weekend, dropping both of their scheduled games in yet another back-to-back series with the Oklahoma City Blue, this time at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The Sea Dubs drop to a regular season record of 16-28, effectively putting them in last place in both the Western Conference and Pacific Division and out of playoff contention.

Santa Cruz went into their first game against the Blue on Friday with a 2-1 regular season series advantage. While the Warriors had been missing Elliot Williams for quite some time after the scoring guard opted to pursue a deal overseas, Luis Montero and Cliff Alexander had proved welcome additions to the team after being assigned by the Portland Trailblazers. The team was also just beginning to see the benefits of having guys like Aaron Craft and Mychel Thompson back with the Warriors after playing some time overseas, and Santa Cruz was likely happy to see Xavier Henry finding his niche after missing much of the season due to injury.

Despite coming off an impressive 132-117 win over the Delaware 87ers, Santa Cruz was just unable to establish themselves from the get-go, allowing OKC to dictate the tempo with their defensive effort. After trailing for the majority of the game, Santa Cruz was simply unable to complete their late-game comeback push.

Verdell Jones III and Darington Hobson were the leading scorers for Santa Cruz, recording 26 points apiece. Daniel Coursey tallied 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 23 minutes, and Mychel Thompson dropped in 10 points.

As for the Portland assignees: Alexander had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while Montero had eight points, six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 18 minutes played.

Talib Zanna was the leading scorer for OKC in the first contest, recording a double-double on the night with 29 points and 18 rebounds. Josh Huestis, on assignment from the Oklahoma City Thunder, had 21 points, while Dakari Johnson posted 17 points. Marquis Teague also scored in double digits for OKC in the win, posting 16 points.

The Warriors were likely looking to get payback the following night, and they proved it when they were able to pull within two points before the end of the first half after being down 17 points after the first quarter. A huge third quarter from Montero had Santa Cruz going into the final segment with a one point lead, and it was the big men who kept the momentum going throughout the fourth quarter.

With 1.8 seconds left in a tie game, Montero was fouled in the act of shooting by Teague. After hitting a pair of clutch free throws, OKC called a short time out and allowed Santa Cruz to formulate their defensive game plan. Even so, OKC was able to get a good look for Dwight Buycks a couple steps out from the three-point line, who got it to go down for the buzzer beating victory.

Talking to Santa Cruz head coach Casey Hill after the game, Hill briefly shared his thoughts about the last play following the Montero free throws.

“With 1.8 seconds left, we forced a…what was that? A 34-footer? He switched it, and there’s not much you can do about that,” Hill said.

“That was a tough shot, and he made it. Happens.”

Montero was the leading scorer for Santa Cruz, dropping 20 points in an impressive performance in front of a sellout crowd. He also had a game-high five blocks. Five other Warriors players scored in double digits against the Blue, including Alexander, Jones, and Aaron Craft, who each had 16 points. Thompson had 14 points on the night, while Anthony Vereen scored 11 points on 5-for-5 field goal shooting.

Huestis had a game-high 23 points for the Blue, followed by Teague’s 20 points. Zanna had another good night against Surf City, dropping 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win. Johnson also recorded a double-double in Santa Cruz on Saturday, tallying 12 points and 10 rebounds to go with his five assists and four blocks. Buycks finished with 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field and 3-for-9 shooting from behind the arc.

Hill told media two games ago that both Montero and Alexander would likely be going back to Portland following this back-to-back against OKC. Following the Saturday night contest, Coach Hill told Blue Man Hoop he stood by that statement, pointing out the fact a representative from Portland was present in Santa Cruz after the Saturday night loss.

Next: Baron Davis: For the Love of the Game

Asked whether he’d miss Montero and Alexander, Hill took some time to praise both players for their contributions to the team both on the floor and in the locker room.

“There’s a certain aspect of chemistry that you sacrifice when you take guys like that on, and you hope that they’re good guys and they take advantage of the opportunity,” Hill said.

“It’s nice that they were able to take advantage of this opportunity, and they can move and go be good rookies for Portland and hopefully they’ll be able to help them out at some point during the playoffs.”

The Santa Cruz Warriors now look to get the win on Thursday against the Idaho Stampede. The game will tip off at 7:00 PM/PT and will be televised on ESPNU.