With stronger D-fense than their Los Angeles counterparts, the Santa Cruz Warriors came back from 19 points down to beat the Los Angeles D-Fenders(12-18), 98-92.
The fourth quarter surge, in which they outscored LA 33-18, marked the first time the Warriors have won a game when trailing entering the final quarter.
The Warriors (19-11) came out sluggish to start the game and committed several turnovers, which the D-Fenders (12-18) used as fuel for a 12-0 start.
"I thought we would start better," said head coach Nate Bjorkgren, commenting on the Warriors 33 turnovers (LA had 20). "We were sloppy with the basketball. I thought we'd come out of the gates better."
The Warriors would make a run late in the first quarter and tie the game at 22 but the D-Fenders extended their lead to as big as 19 points in the second quarter. The visitors were on top until a Warriors blitz in the final minutes.
Darington Hobson sank two free throws three minutes into the final quarter and both teams traded baskets until D-Fender Gary Flowers hit a clutch three to bring the game back within one point, 89-88.
D-Fenders star Courtney Fortson, who led the night with 19 points, stole the ball away from Stefhon Hannah and sped the length of the court to earn a trip to the free throw line. Fortson hit both free throws and the D-Fenders regained the lead.
Hannah redeemed himself with a dagger three from the right side of the court with Fortson's hand in his face. Hannah held his shooting hand up and all Fortson could do was watch. The three would ice the game for the Warriors and seal the win in what was a physical game loaded with fouls.
"The thing about Stef, is he really competes," said Bjorkgren. "He really gets after it and sets the tone and really picks up the tempo of the game and him and Fortson were really going at it out there."
The Warriors were led by Hilton Armstrong’s 18 points and 11 rebounds. Cameron Jones also added a big 18 points. Taylor Griffin recorded a double-double, grabbing a season-high 17 rebounds along with 12 points. Darington Hobson scored all of his 15 points in the second half.
Lazar Hayward had a double-double, grabbing a game-high 18 rebounds and 11 points. Elijah Milllsap had a game-high six steals and seven assists, and he added 15 points.
The Warriors travel to Reno overnight to play the Bighorns tomorrow. The win also brings the Warriors back to within two games of first place in the D-League. The season series between Los Angeles and Santa Cruz now stands at 4-0 in favor of the Warriors.
Travis Leslie who was seen grabbing at his lower leg after missing a block, said he suffered no injury, but had cramping in his calves.
Reporter and Columnist Tony Nunez is a Cabrillo College student working on a Pat and Rowland Rebele grant.