Santa Cruz Clinches Western Conference Title

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The Santa Cruz Warriors wrapped up the 2014-15 season last week with a 113-99 road win over the Bakersfield Jam Saturday night. With the victory, the Dubs clinched the D-League’s Western Conference title finishing with a 35-15 record, one win ahead of the Jam.

The game against Bakersfield was the second in a back-to-back to close out the season for the Warriors. In the first game on Friday, Reno Bighorns guard Dar Tucker erupted for 53 points hitting 19 of his 29 shots as the Warriors lost to the Bighorns 143-135. Tucker’s 53 points is tied for the second most points scored in a game in D-League history.

Fellow teammate Coby Karl supplied a triple-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assist while David Stockton — son of legendary NBA point guard John Stockton — contributed with 23 points and 17 assists to help secure the win for Reno.

“[Tucker] went off. He shot the ball extremely well and was the recipient of their system,” said Warriors head coach Casey Hill after the game against Reno. “Our starters did a good job of playing aggressive but our defense was flat. We allowed them to get back into the game.”

In what was their final home game of the season, the Warriors played in front of a sold out crowd of 2,544 at Kaiser Permanente Arena. Starting guard Dominique Sutton notched a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds. However, the team saw its four game winning streak come to an abrupt end as the Horns edged Santa Cruz despite having just seven players in uniform.

“We have some great basketball players on this team. This season, it was a bit difficult for us,” Hill said. “There are definitely some players that deserve a contract — an opportunity to play at the next level.”

Even though Santa Cruz out-rebounded its foes 58-41 and had a better shooting percentage than Reno, it was the Horns’ ability to make three-point shots that made the difference. They made 19 triples to the Warriors 11.

“When it became a big score deficit, it became about managing our time and their lead,” said Hill following Friday night’s contest. “If we could cut into the score then, we would have gone after it but we’re trying to keep our guys’ legs.”

This season marks the third in a row for the Warriors making a playoff appearance. The team has made two consecutive D-League Finals coming in to this year, losing the championship first to Rio Grande in 2013 and again last year to Fort Wayne.

Game one of the team’s first round series will be Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN-U. Games two and three will be played at Kaiser Permanente Arena on April 10 and 14.