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Stampede Pull Away Late to Move Past D-Fenders and into Finals

Idaho 97, Los Angeles 90

BOISE, Idaho, April 18 -- In what could have been the last professional game for D-League legend and NBA veteran Randy Livingston, the Idaho Stampede and Los Angeles D-Fenders hooked up in a classic, which resulted in Idaho prevailing 97-90 and earning a trip to the NBA Development League Finals.

With a season-high 4,053 fans on hand at Qwest Arena, the Stampede, who finished the regular season with the highest winning percentage in league history, started tentatively, while the D-Fenders’ Coby Karl, who attended nearby Boise State, was hot right out of the gate. The 25-year-old guard on assignment from the Los Angeles Lakers connected on his first of two first-quarter 3-pointers just two minutes into the contest.

While one Boise State product was hitting, another, Roberto Bergersen struggled for the home team. He missed all seven of his field goal attempts, including four triple tries in the opening quarter. Still, Idaho, feeding off the emotion of their fans, which reached a crescendo when Brent Petway threw down an emphatic jam with two and a half minutes to play in the quarter, stuck around and trailed by just one point, 30-29, after the opening quarter.

Cory Violette, who caught fire after a slow start, as well as spirited play from former NBA lottery pick Luke Jackson and high-flyer Mike Taylor, sparked the Stampede at the start of the second. Taylor’s 3 with just under six minutes remaining in the half knotted the score at 44. The former Iowa State standout completed the first half with 14 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.

“Mike Taylor and Luke Jackson came off the bench and played superbly,” said Livingston. “They really provided a spark.”

Bergersen finished the game connecting on just four of 16 shots from the field, but provided a strong contribution during a Stampede surge in the final four-plus minutes of the second quarter. The normally reliable shooter hit his first trey of the game with 4:23 left in the half and followed that up with a pair of layups.

Karl brought the visitors within six with a buzzer-beating layup, which closed a hard-fought, back-and-forth first half.

The second half started with Petway bringing the Stampede faithful out of their seats with one of his patented thunderous alley-oop jams off a neat dish from Bergersen. That put the Stampede up 58-52. The D-Fenders’ Jelani McCoy then hit a pair of short shots early in the stanza, the second of which accounted for his 20th point of the night.

It was a tight battle throughout the quarter with neither team able to gain the upper hand. After three quarters the score read Idaho 75, Los Angeles 74.

L.A.’s Brian Morrison kicked off the final quarter by hitting his third 3-pointer of the game, a left-side jumper which was his fourth field goal on four attempts. The triple put the visitors up 77-75. Josh McRoberts, on assignment since Thursday from the Portland Trail Blazers, then hit a jumper of his own at the shot-clock buzzer.

With 2:20 left in the game, L.A. got to the line for the first time in the second half as McCoy hit one of two shots, bringing the D-Fenders to within three, 87-84.

With the game very much in the balance Livingston, who’s played such an integral role in the success of the Idaho franchise, stepped front and center and hit a jumper that put the Stampede up five with 2:06 left to play. As the ball went through the hoop, the 32-year-old let out a yowl as L.A. coach Dan Panaggio signaled for a timeout.

Last season’s D-League MVP then hit a fadeaway with 1:27 remaining to put the Stampede up seven, seemingly sealing the victory. After Violette hit two free throws to put the Stampede up by nine, Idaho’s fans began to celebrate what they figured was a definite berth in the final -- but L.A. had one final run in them.

Karl hit a layup and drew a foul, and Cecil Brown dialed in from 3-point range with 53 seconds left, cutting L.A.’s deficit to just three points.

That’s when Livingston came up huge once again. He hit a jumper from the wing to extend the lead to 95-90.

Karl then missed a three; Brown also missed for L.A.

Jackson hit two from the charity stripe to seal it for good, and Livingston and Stampede owner Bill Ilett simultaneously jumped for joy.

Six Stampede players finished in double figures led by Jackson’s 20 points, while McCoy tallied 23 in defeat for the L.A. D-Fenders.

Idaho will face the winner of Saturday’s Sioux Falls Skyforce-Austin Toros game in a best-of-three finals series.