HIDALGO, TX – After losing to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers earlier this month, the South Bay Lakers got their revenge with a 117-114 win on Friday night. Thomas Bryant scored 23 points and Stephaun Branch tallied a career-high of 22 as South Bay (17-11) picked up the win in a battle between the top two teams in the Western Conference. RJ Hunter led the Vipers (18-11) with 22 points despite shooting only 3-14 from three-point range.
A tight first quarter found the Vipers ahead 27-25 through one behind eight points from Isaiah Hartenstein. Bryant led all scorers in the opening quarter with 11 points for South Bay. The two teams continued to go back-and-forth in the first half, ultimately finishing deadlocked at 50 through two quarters. Branch came alive in the second with nine of his 11 first-half points coming in the period.
The Vipers took an 81-77 lead after the third quarter as Markel Brown scored 13 points in the period. However, the Lakers started the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run and never looked back as they outscored the Vipers 40-33 behind 19 combined points from Branch and Travis Wear.
Hunter grabbed 22 points and nine rebounds while Hartenstein finished with a 20-point, 14-rebound double-double, but the Vipers struggled from beyond the arc (10-41) in the loss. Tony Wroten (18 points, seven rebounds) and Brown (13 points, eight rebounds) put up solid numbers in the starting lineup. Troy Williams (15 points, four steals), Chris Walker (12 points, nine rebounds) and Julien Lewis (10 points) all reached double figures off the bench for the Vipers.
Bryant’s 23 points led all scorers, but Branch’s career-night (22 points, nine rebounds, four steals) provided the spark that lifted South Bay to the victory. Wear scored 17 points, Scott Machado grabbed his tenth double-double of the year (14 points, 11 assists) and Andre Ingram was perfect from deep (4-4) as he scored 14 points off the bench. V.J. Beachem also reached double digits with 11 points and Stephen Zimmerman grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds.
The South Bay Lakers return to action a week from tonight when they host the Windy City Bulls on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 from the UCLA Health Training Center.