RGV avenges loss to Clippers with late-game heroics
By Bryan Ramos
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers 13-game win streak came to an end Tuesday at the hand of the Agua Caliente Clippers, but on December 14, the Vipers avenged the loss as they passed part one of their “Revenge Tour”, beating the Clippers 117-112.
Down as many as 15 in the second half, the Vipers fought back to steal the victory with late-game execution and defensive stops the team couldn’t get in the 110-109 loss on Tuesday.
Guard R.J. Hunter led the Vipers with 29 points and four steals, coming up with another big final quarter. Hunter, who called their current two-game stretch against the Clippers and Austin Spurs the “Revenge Tour”, received a technical foul in the fourth, said he gets fired up when playing teams when there’s a backstory between them.
“I was just pissed that we lost to them the other day, so I had an extra kind of edge about me today,” he said. “The referees were referees, so that added to it, and I was just fired up.”
While Hunter finished with a strong fourth, it was another Viper fresh off a plane who stepped up to knock down two shots in the final minute of the game.
Guard Monte Morris rejoined the Vipers at 1 a.m. Thursday after making his NBA debut with the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. When Morris touched down in the Valley, he got a haircut and was ready to roll. Morris and his fresh cut came through in the clutch for RGV, scoring five points in the final minutes of the game, including a floater and a three-pointer with the game tied at 110, which proved to be the game-winning shot.
“I saw the opportunity and just took advantage of it, tried to get the best shot I could, which was a floater and luckily it went in,” said Morris, who finished the game with 20 points and eight dimes. “Coach was yelling ‘Bingo’ just so we take the shot, if I was to miss it, we’d have a chance to tie it or win it. I just was confident in my three-point shot all night and even the ones I missed, it didn’t slow me down.”
The Vipers forced the Clippers to commit 27 turnovers, which led to 29 RGV points. The Vipers only committed 13 turnovers which was key in the comeback win.
Head Coach Matt Brase said he thought his team’s energy was up and down throughout the night, but the team eventually turned things up a notch in the final quarter. Brase praised Julien Lewis and Craig Victor for being the driving force behind the Vipers’ comeback, not on the box score, but out on the floor making winning-plays through effort.
“I thought the first half wasn’t our best of the season, then we started battling, started scrapping a little bit,” Brase said. “That last unit that finished the game, they had a drive, they had a willingness together to get some stops. Once you got all five guys that are locked in, talking, being vocal, doing all that stuff, it’s a good thing to have. It’s one thing we can’t just do the last four or five minutes of a game, we have to try to do it for 48, but we were able to do it when it counted tonight.”
Next up on the “Revenge Tour” for the Vipers is the Austin Spurs tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Spurs knocked off RGV in their first meeting 111-104 at State Farm Arena on November 8. If the Vipers hope to get their revenge on the Spurs, they will have to do it on the road inside the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Hunter and Morris both said the Vipers will again have revenge on their mind when they take the floor Friday night.
“It’s just like the ‘Revenge Tour’, that’s what we keep calling it in the locker room,” Hunter said. “It’ s just two back-to-back teams that beat us, and we feel like we should’ve won both those games, so we’ll be locked in.”
The Vipers will be back at home Tuesday December 19 at 11 a.m. when they host the Canton Charge. Tickets can be purchased at http://riograndevalley.gleague.nba.com or the State Farm Arena Box Office.