Spurs rally to defeat Vipers, advance to Western Conference Finals


CEDAR PARK – Keifer Sykes notched a pair of career-highs to help the Austin Spurs overcome a 24-point deficit, defeating the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 89-88, to clinch a trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Sykes managed to lead the Spurs with 31 points and six steals, setting a career high in both categories, while also tallying two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes. Deshaun Thomas would drop 16 points and nine rebounds for Austin, while Brandon Fields had 16 points, two rebounds and two steals.

For the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, rookie Montrezl Harrell returned from a five-game suspension and had a monster performance with 26 points and six rebounds, while Will Cummings added 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals before fouling out. Jaron Johnson and Denzel Livingston added in 12 points apiece.

It was a sluggish start on Saturday afternoon for the silver and black, as the Spurs found themselves down double-digits midway through the first quarter. Harrell scored 14 of his 26 points in the frame, powering the Vipers to a 35-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Sykes would make his presence felt in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his 31 points in the period to cut Rio Grande Valley’s lead down to 15 points before halftime.

Austin eventually cut the Vipers lead down to single digits in the third quarter, as Rio Grande Valley’s offense began to sputter, but the Vipers still managed to maintain a 12 point lead heading into the final quarter. Seven quick points to start the fourth quarter would give Rio Grande Valley a 14-point edge, but the Vipers offense would go cold and only score two points, both off free throws, over the final six minutes of the game. Sykes nearly single-handedly brought the Austin Spurs back, as a free throw with 0.4 seconds left would clinch the game and the series for the Spurs.

Now Austin gets to wait on the winner of the series between the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Reno Bighorns, which the D-Fenders currently lead 1-0. Los Angeles can punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night, but Reno will have the homecourt advantage for Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary.


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