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Vipers find their footing

Tuesday night, Bert Ogden Arena was host to a G League matchup between the traveling Texas Legends and our very own Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Legends were held scoreless for four minutes after they opened up the game with a basket. The Vipers starters were everything, everywhere, all at once scoring 13 points before the Legends got their second basket. Vipers forward Darius Days was leading the way for the home team in the first quarter. His 13 first quarter points helped the Vipers finish the quarter with a 30-20 lead.

The second quarter was all Jarrett Culver and Jalen Lecque. The Vipers guards were finding their shots in this quarter. They went back and forth exchanging baskets with each other. The duo combined for 24 points in this quarter as the Vipers closed out the first half with a 67-52 lead.

The Legends would have to make a run in the third quarter if they wanted a shot in this game. Culver and Days were able to keep their hot hands working in the third, but not enough to keep their lead extended. The Legends were able to cut down the 15 point lead to just seven points. Vipers’ center Ray Spalding scored six points, grabbed a board, and assisted on a shot in the last three minutes of the third to help the Vipers get their lead back to 14, closing out the quarter with a 95-82 lead.

The fourth quarter, the starters came together to finish off the Legends. The Vipers closed out the game with a couple of Days’ threes and layups and clutch free throws from Culver, Lecque, and Spalding. The final score of 123-114 flashed as the clock struck zero in the final quarter.

RGV Vipers’ Ray Spalding flying for the slam dunk during last Tuesday’s win against Texas Legends. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

The Vipers were elevated by their starters in this game. Leading the way for the starters was guard Jarrett Culver, who finished the game with 33 points and six rebounds. Forward Darius Days finished the game with 29 points and nine rebounds. Guard Jalen Lecque finished the game with 22 points and two steals. Center Ray Spalding finished the game with a monster line of 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals.

This game was not only dominated on the offensive end. The Vipers excelled in a lot of facets of the game whether it was offensively by creating shots and making them or defensively by stopping their opponents and creating turnovers.

With the win, the Vipers advance to 5-2 on the season as they take the first place spot in the South region in the Showcase Cup standings.

RGV Vipers’ Jalen Lecque flies past the defense for the score during last Tuesday’s win against Texas Legends. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

The Vipers started off their season with a trio of two-way players from the Houston Rockets. This made it hard for the one-way players to get their full share of minutes. This was the first game that the Vipers were without their two-way players, which allowed for the stars to shine.

I got the chance to speak to head coach Kevin Burleson about what he’s learning this year with this team while going through this process. “It’s everyday man. Like today this was the first time this group played together. I’m still trying to learn every day. Still trying to figure out the different combinations and who works with who and that’s going to take some time and I’m just glad that we’re winning some games while we’re taking that time.”

I then asked Burleson about the impact that this winning streak has on their team as they prepared to go up against their next opponents, the Mexico City Capitales last night. Burleson said, “That’s a team that we have our battles with, it’s gonna give us some confidence going into it. Mexico City is a really talented team. There’s a lot of former NBA players and it’s good to go into this with some confidence. It’s going to be fun.”

RGV Vipers’ Guard Shawn Occeus charges to pass the ball during last Tuesday’s win against Texas Legends. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

The Vipers’ hope is to come out of this current home stand on a four game win streak.

I got the chance to speak to Vipers guard Jarrett Culver after the game. After dropping a season high 33 points in Wednesday’s win, I asked how he liked how his game has been developing this season, “I feel like it’s developing well, there are always areas to work on and that’s my mindset. I want to get better, just gotta keep shooting the ball and shoot it at a better clip and be efficient. Defensively I’ve had some lapses that I can get better at. Just gotta stay locked in and get everybody involved. If I need to score, go score. If I need to pass, make the right pass. I feel like I’m growing and that is going to develop a lot throughout the season while playing with these guys.”

The guard is averaging 24 points per game in the last three wins for the Vipers. I noticed how patient he was in finding his shot throughout the game. The Vipers are going to be in good hands with an elite scorer like Culver on the team.

The Vipers will begin their road game stretch December 6th, after their second game against the Capitales tonight. The best of luck to the Vipers tonight and may they have safe travels during their upcoming road trip.

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