Santa Cruz Warriors guard Jerome Robinson pumps his fist in excitement during a timeout break in a game against Rio Grande Valley at the Chase Center in San Francisco on March 10. (Jonathan Natividad/special to The Pajaronian)

The Santa Cruz Warriors traveled to San Francisco on March 10 to display their talents on one of the biggest stages in the world.

On Sunday afternoon, the Sea Dubs showed up and showed out with a 112-105 win against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in front of a nearly packed house at the Chase Center—home of the NBA affiliate Golden State Warriors. 

For Santa Cruz head coach Nicholas Kerr—son of Golden State head coach Steve Kerr—it was his first win on his father’s home turf.

“For me personally, if I think about it a little more I guess it’s cool to get a win here,” Nicholas Kerr said. “But from a team standpoint it was a really important game on the schedule chasing these guys for a playoff spot.”

Santa Cruz (16-11) had hoped to give 13,231 basketball fans in attendance something to cheer for on Sunday. 

Especially following a night after Golden State suffered a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, even without rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama. 

An emphatic dunk from 6-foot-3 guard Pat Spencer midway through the first quarter set the tone for the game, bringing the crowd to its feet.

The Warriors on Sunday shot 42.5% from 3-point range, and outscored the Vipers by 33 points from beyond the arc.

“The deeper you get into the paint the more they reach and slap,” Kerr said. “If you get off the ball early, there are shots to be had. We did a good job recognizing how big they are and how many turnovers they can cause.”

Despite the final score, the Vipers dominated parts of the game—leading by as much as 13 and scoring 22 more points than the Warriors in the paint.

Rio Grande Valley’s Jarrett Culver was a force to be reckoned with, finishing the game with 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Santa Cruz had its own weapon in Gui Santos—on assignment from Golden State—who had a team-best 26 points. He is averaging 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17 NBA games this season. 

Santos mentioned that being able to play with superstars such as Stephan Curry and Klay Thompson makes the game easier for him. 

“You’ve just got to screen Klay [Thompson] and Steph [Curry] and they’re going to be wide open, and you’re going to make shots,” Santos said. “It’s not that hard to play with them, you’ve just got to know what to do when you’re on the court.”

The Sea Dubs played with poise and pace throughout last week’s game, making quick passes one would not expect from a team with players constantly moving in and out of the rotation.

It was the bench that provided the spark for the Warriors. By the end of the first half, the starters found themselves getting outscored in the plus/minus category, while the bench players stayed in the positive side.

Jackson Rowe, Jerome Robinson and Javonte Green came off the bench to score in the double digits for Santa Cruz.

The scoreboard was like a see-saw battle between both teams, with the Warriors ending the first half on a 19-4 run that gave them a 62-59 lead going into the break.

“These games are really long, 48 minutes,” Kerr said. “Especially in the G-League, no lead is safe. You can go down by 15 and make it up in two minutes. Trying to keep your guys level through 48 is the main goal.”

Turnovers by the Warriors and trips to the free throw line were the two major factors keeping the Vipers in the game. But even that wasn’t enough with the Warriors, who were shooting lights-out until the final buzzer sounded.

Up until the fourth quarter, the game was still in question with the Vipers in control of both the lead and pace of play. That was when Santos took control and spearheaded another Warriors run.

With a 107-105 lead and less than one minute remaining, Yuri Collins became the unsung hero for Santa Cruz by draining a game-winning 3-pointer, emitting roaring echoes from the spectators.

“We have one of the best crowds in the G-League,” Collins said. “I expected nothing less from them today. It’s exciting to play in Chase.”

Donovan Williams had a team-best 20 points for Santa Cruz in a 116-111 win over the Vipers at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz on March 12.  

Javonte Green contributed 16 points, while Golden State Warriors Two-Way player Usman Garuba posted the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 14 rebounds. 

With the win, Santa Cruz jumped to third place ahead of South Bay (15-11), Rip City (15-11) and Rio Grande Valley (14-11) in the West Conference standings. 

The Warriors sit just 2 1/2 games out of the top spot behind Sioux Falls (18-9) and conference leaders Stockton (19-9) halfway through the regular season.

Santa Cruz has two consecutive home games at Kaiser Permanente Arena against the last place G League Ignite (2-26). The first game is Friday, followed by the rematch on Saturday. Both games slated to tip off at 7pm.

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