RGV Capsules: Vipers notch second title in four years - Brownsville Herald: Sports

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RGV Capsules: Vipers notch second title in four years

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Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013 10:45 pm

HIDALGO — Glen Rice Jr. had never won a championship of any sort. D.J. Kennedy had not won one since high school.

Together, they combined to win another for the Valley on Saturday, leading the Vipers to their second NBA D-League championship in the last four years by way of a 102-91 win over Santa Cruz in Game 2 of their Finals at State Farm Arena.

Kennedy had a game-high 27 points to go with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals, and Rice added 25 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in helping win the Vipers' 16th game in a row, and more importantly their final of the season.

"We stayed together," Rice said. "We lost guys to trades, call-ups, whatever. We figured it all out and came together and won a championship. That's what it's about."

Normally an offensive-minded bunch, the Vipers dug deep defensively to win the series. It outrebounded the taller, beefier Warriors by 13 in Game 1 on Thursday and then held them below 40 percent shooting (39.5) while forcing 23 turnovers on Saturday.

That production belied their small-ball, run-and-gun style of play, even so that it made up for uncharacteristic poor shooting (40.3 percent overall, including 20.7 from, and 65.4 from the free-throw line).

"Yeah, we play small, but we're a bunch of quick, athletic guys," Kennedy said. "Everybody crashes the boards and we play defense personally.

"Teams might be bigger, but we don't back down."

For Vipers coach Nick Nurse, it was his second D-League championship after winning one with the Iowa Energy in 2011. But he said this one will be remembered for how smooth it went.

"We were on such a run that I expected us to win all the time," Nurse said. "I didn't expect it to be easy, but I expected us to figure it out one way or the other."

That was no problem Saturday for the Vipers. They led by 11 late in the first quarter, 15 at halftime and by as many as 17 in the third quarter. As has been their way throughout this stretch, however, they went lax a bit when awarded a sizable advantage, like when the Warriors cut their deficit to one with 7:35 left in the game, but they always countered, often spectacularly via a Rice 3, a Kennedy breakaway slam or a Tyler Honeycutt flush off a lob from Toure Murry.

Yes, Santa Cruz threatened late, but the game was never truly in doubt.

"That's a great team over there," Kennedy said of the Warriors. "They swept everybody to get to the finals just like us. We knew they weren't going to let down. We were able to make more runs and fight through it."

With their season's leading scorer Andrew Goudelock now a Laker, and with the Royce White drama and trademark roster movement that plagues a D-League season all in play, this still seemed to be the year of the Vipers, whose last defeat of the 2012-13 season, ironically enough, came at home to Santa Cruz on March 15.

Nurse, like most coaches, credited the gradual improvement of his young players as reason for success. As much as it was about the likes of Rice and Kennedy, it was also about guys like rookie forward Mike Singletary, a product of Humble Kingwood High in Houston and Texas Tech University who had the highlight of the night with a one-handed breakaway slam through Santa Cruz's Travis Leslie late in the third quarter.

"It's unbelievable, man," said Singletary, who had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench. "These guys are like my brothers. It's been a crazy season. We had the talent all along.

"It was a matter of us staying true and staying focused, and that's what we did."

Fiver Vipers who were selected by the franchise in the 2012 draft were on the roster that finished the season. Rice, incredibly enough, was a sixth round-pick, and Nurse said seeing that progress was worth it all.

"I'm just really happy with how young our guys were and how much they accomplished," he said. "They stuck through everything thrown at them, and that's not easy to do in this league with such a young team."

Dennis Silva II covers high school basketball for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4451 or at dsilva@themonitor.com. Follow him on Twitter: @densilva2

Defense at the forefront of Vipers’ success

HIDALGO — An offensive juggernaut most of this season, not unlike their parent club in Houston, the Vipers turned to the nitty gritty in winning their second D-League championship in four years.

Against a Santa Cruz team that set league records in total and defensive single-season rebounds, Rio Grande Valley beat the Warriors at their own game in sweeping them 2-0. After out-rebounding Santa Cruz 57-44 in Game 1 on Thursday, the Vipers got defensive in Saturday's 102-91 win, holding a taller, stronger Warriors squad to 39.5 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.

"We had to play two games of their style, and we beat them at it," Vipers coach Nick Nurse said. "It's not really what we wanted, but it's what we needed to do and it shows our resiliency over the course of this season.

"There's a lot of different ways to win games, and we had to dig down, tough it out and grit it out, so it's a credit to our guys."

The Vipers (41-15) were as active defensively Saturday, as they have been all season, rotating quickly and mixing quick feet with quicker hands.

Santa Cruz scored 52 points in the paint, but needed 43 shots to do so. That forced the Warriors to look elsewhere for offense, but they missed 19 of 24 3-pointers and only managed eight fast break points.

"Pack the paint. Pack the paint," forward Glen Rice Jr. said. "That was our main objective. Make them make some tough shots, tough 3s, but no layups."

It was defense by committee. Whether it was Rice (13 rebounds, three blocks, three steals), Chris Daniels (two blocks), or reserves Tyler Honeycutt (five rebounds, a steal) and Mike Singletary (five rebounds, two steals) or Rice (13 rebounds, three steals, three blocks), the Vipers swarmed to the ball and proved a nuisance to a team that shot 44.2 percent this season. D.J. Kennedy and Toure Murry added three steals apiece.

Rio Grande Valley, essentially, turned into Santa Cruz, which held foes to 96.8 points on a league-best 40.8 percent shooting this year. When they needed it most, the Vipers' responded with the ball out of their hands.

"That's what Coach got us ready for," Singletary said. "We knew it would be tough to get up to the 120 points a game or whatever, and we knew we'd have to buckle down and guard the halfcourt (game).

"We did a great job of that."

Dennis Silva II covers sports for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4451 or at dsilva@themonitor.com. Follow him on Twitter: @densilva2

Notebook: Former Vipers reunite with old team

HIDALGO — Two former Vipers were competing against their old team as Santa Cruz Warriors in Saturday's Game 2 of the D-League Finals.

Center Mickell Gladness, a member of the 2010 D-League Champ Vipers in his fourth D-League season, is a little-used reserve for Santa Cruz. He started for most of the first half of the season, but when Hilton Armstrong and Jeremy Tyler were acquired soon thereafter, he moved into a third-string role.

Scott Machado, an undrafted rookie free agent signee by the Rockets last summer, played 18 games for the Vipers this season, starting nine, and averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 assists before he was traded to Santa Cruz for Chris Daniels on March 8.

Machado, who had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists off the bench Saturday, is on assignment with Santa Cruz after being called up to Golden State toward the end of the D-League regular season.

"There's definitely a heritage of Vipers in the D-League," said Gersson Rosas, Vipers general manager and Rockets executive Vice President. "That will happen because we re-set our roster every year; we're going to have new players pretty consistently.

"It's almost a little bit like a family get-together, but when you get on that court you forget names and faces and it's all about winning."

Former Viper stars on big stage

The Vipers played this championship series without the player who's led them in scoring most of this season.

Guard Andrew Goudelock, who played in 37 games as a Viper this season before being called up to the Lakers after one game of the D-League playoffs, is a starter these days for Los Angeles.

Due to the extensive injury report for the Lakers' backcourt, Goudelock, who was named D-League MVP on Thursday after averaging 21.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds for RGV, started Friday's Game 3 defeat to the Spurs and scored 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting to go with three steals in 41 minutes.

"We feel like the D-League is the most talented it's ever been," Rosas said. "For us, it's great because it means that it allows our NBA players that we assign to develop at a higher rate and it's providing more NBA players for rosters.

"There's great coaching in the D-League, there's great players, and now we're seeing the fruit of that labor. We think it's the beginning of a great period where the D-League is going to grow, there will be more development and there will be more of an impact."

Vipers on the roster for this series who have spent time in the NBA this season include guard Chris Johnson (Memphis Grizzlies), Tyler Honeycutt (Sacramento Kings) and Tim Ohlbrecht (Houston Rockets).

Goudelock is expected to again start at shooting guard for the Lakers for Game 4 of their first round series today at 6 p.m. on TNT.

Patriotic ball boy

One Vipers ball boy has a local tie to the high school hoops community.

Elijah De La Garza, 10, has been a ball boy for Rio Grande Valley the last two years. His father, Romeo, is the head boys basketball coach for the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots.

"He's been doing this the last couple of years and he loves it," Romeo said. "I do some camps with Coach K (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski) as well and he comes with me, so he's always around the game."

Romeo does not attend many games during the season, due to the Vipers' scheduling conflict with high school games, but has been an avid supporter during the postseason.

Elijah goes to Mims Elementary, and he had a helper for Saturday's game in his brother, Nathaniel, 6. Nathaniel, too, attends Mims.

Dennis Silva II covers sports for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4451 or at dsilva@themonitor.com. Follow him on Twitter: @densilva2

Colleges

UTB-TSC women's volleyball donates toys to Sunny Glen youth

SAN BENITO — The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College volleyball team delivered new toys to Sunny Glen Children's Home on Friday afternoon that were raised during their 'Christmas in April' toy drive that ran during the month of April at UTB-TSC.

The visit was part of the Champions of Character initiative that the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics promotes for all their athletic programs.

The Champions of Character program capitalizes on the NAIA's reputation for top-flight athletics, superior academics and outstanding personal integrity of its athletes to promote character and sportsmanship through athletics.

Sunny Glen Children's Home, a non-profit organization, is the Rio Grande Valley's home for forgotten children, providing residential care services. For over 70 years, they have provided Valley children of need with housing, food and education.

The volleyball team received a tour of the facility by Sunny Glen personnel and were showed the ins and outs of the children's daily lifestyle. They were then led to the Joyce "Kimbro" Aycock Learning Center, where the volleyball team distributed toys and interacted with children.

— UTB-TSC Services

BASEBALL

WhiteWings hire manager

The Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings on Saturday announced the hiring of Chris Paterson as their manager for the upcoming United League season.

Paterson is no stranger to independent baseball, having managed the past three seasons in the Pecos and Continental Baseball Leagues. He earned manager of the year honors twice — once in the Continental League in 2010, and another in the Pecos League in 2011, while leading the Roswell Invaders to a league championship.

Paterson piloted the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League this past season. He was chosen to manage in that league’s all-star game the past two seasons. He also has college coaching experience, having served as pitching coach at Pacifica in 2010.

Paterson played in college at North Dakota State University, where he was named a national player of the week after throwing five innings of a combined no-hitter against Creighton in 2008. After graduating, he played in multiple independent leagues, including the Pecos, Golden, and Continental Leagues, where he was an all-star. Paterson also has experience playing professionally overseas, with stops in Germany, France, Italy and Australia.

The Yucaipa, Calif., native graduated with his bachelors degree in behavioral studies from NDSU and his masters degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. He plans on pursuing a Ph.D.

Paterson’s ties to talent are the keys to his success. He was director of player procurement the past two seasons in the Pecos League. Additionally, he has managed in the California Winter League, Arizona Winter League, and this past season in the Texas Winter League in Harlingen.

Paterson is responsible for helping to sign more than 200 players to pro contracts during his managerial career. In the past, he served as an associate scout for the Tampa Bay Rays organization, helping to run their elite scout team. Paterson now serves as a scout in the Miami Marlins organization.

Paterson has begun assembling a team of young squad.

“We have some pretty good talent coming in,” he said. “I wanted to bring players with experience that also have a desire to win and advance.”

The team will have a different look than previous seasons with three former Texas Longhorns players on the roster in Jordan Etier, Paul Montalbano, and Kevin Lusson. Paterson actively sought the Texas players in building the WhiteWings’ roster.

“I really look forward to getting into Harlingen, starting spring training and meeting with the community,” he said. “I had the privilege to spend a month there in February in the Winter League and met some great people and got a really good welcome from the fans there.”

The White Wings will start spring training May 14, coinciding with the players’ arrival. Rio Grande Valley will play exhibition games against the defending champion Edinburg Roadrunners, with the season opening May 23 at Harlingen Field against the San Angelo Colts.

— WhiteWings Services

Colleges

UTPA track & field scores top eight finishes at Day Two of Bobcat Classic

SAN MARCOS — Five Broncs finished in the top 10 of their events to lead the University of Texas-Pan American men’s and women’s outdoor track & field teams Saturday during Day Two of the Bobcat Classic at the Texas State Track & Field Complex.

Guillermo Martinez finished eighth in the 400-meter hurdles with a career-best time of 53.60.

Sophomore Kayla de la Pena took eighth in the 100-meter hurdles with a career-best time of 15.44. It was also the best time on the Broncs this season.

The Broncs had three student-athletes finish in the top eight in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, as senior Robin Galloso (11:55.79) came in fourth, junior Mission alum Tania Fabian (11:59.47) took fifth, and junior Beatriz Garza (13:03.36) placed eighth.

The Broncs are back in action Saturday at the Great West Conference Championships, hosted by Houston Baptist.

UTPA baseball completes doubleheader sweep

EDINBURG — The University of Texas-Pan American Broncs baseball team completed their fifth doubleheader sweep of the season by beating the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders 6-2 in second game of their doubleheader Saturday at Edinburg Baseball Stadium.

The game was tied at 2-2 after the top of the sixth inning, but the Broncs (22-18, 13-2 Great West Conference) took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. Riley Goulding led off with a double against reliever Ian Bentley (3-2). Shane Ammon came up with the intention of sacrificing Goulding to third, but his bunt, perfectly placed the ball between third and the mound, allowed Ammon to reach without a throw. One out later, Dillon Engelhart hit an RBI double to give the Broncs a lead. A balk later that inning gave the Broncs a 4-2 lead.

Goulding finished 2-for-3 with two walks to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He is now 18-for-39 (.462) during the streak, a span that has seen the Broncs go 10-3.

The Broncs added some insurance in the eighth when, with the bases loaded and two outs, Alex Howe hit a two-run single.

Bryan Maxwell (1-1), who pitched an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief, striking out two, earned the win.

Starter Dylan Badura pitched well for the Broncs, going 6.1 innings and allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out one.

The Broncs jumped out to an early lead when they loaded the bases with nobody out in the first. Howe hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.

The Highlanders (14-24, 6-9 GWC) scored in the fourth on a balk and in the sixth on an RBI single by Scott Brosman to take a 2-1 lead, but Alberto Morales hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the Broncs scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth to rally from behind and beat the Highlanders 8-7 in seven innings.

Trailing 3-1, Shane Klemcke led off the fifth with a single against Mark Leiter Jr. (4-6). Derek Hagy then drew the first of three four-pitch walks in the inning. Ball four was a wild pitch, allowing Klemcke to reach third. One out later, Shane Ammon hit a grounder back to the mound. Leiter threw to second for the force, but the relay throw wasn’t in time, allowing Klemcke to score. Leiter threw the next eight pitches out of the zone to walk Alex Howe and Dillon Engelhart. Will Klausing followed with his third hit of the game, a two-run double to give the Broncs the lead. Alberto Morales then hit a two-run single to cap the inning at 6-3.

Morales’ hit was the first by a right-handed batter against Leiter. The Broncs (21-18, 12-2 Great West Conference) got one more hit by a righty against Leiter, as Riley Goulding hit an RBI single and later scored during a two-run sixth that made it 8-4.

That hit extended Goulding’s hitting streak to 12 games as he finished 1-for-3 with an RBI. He is now 16-for-36 (.444) over the last 12 games, during which time the Broncs are 9-3.

The Highlanders (14-23, 6-8 GWC) tried to come back in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with no one out to knock out Aaron Moore. Guadalupe Barrera came in and allowed a two-run single to Matt Weckerle. One out later, Stephan Halibej hit an RBI single to put runners on the corners and make it a one-run game. Tom Bouck was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Jeff Peterson grounded into a double play to end the game.

It was Barrera’s first save of the season and the 10th of his career, the fourth most in program history.

Matt Daniels (1-4) picked up his first career win by pitching two innings of relief, allowing one run on one hit, a home run by Ed Charlton, and striking out three.

The Broncs and Highlanders complete this four-game series Sunday at 11 a.m.

— UTPA Services

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