WINDER BEATS BUZZER: VIPERS WIN FIRST NBADL CHAMPIONSHIP IN FRONT OF RECORD CROWD

HIDALGO, TEXAS – Craig Winder nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer, to give the Rio Grande Valley Vipers their first NBA Development League Championship with a 94-91 victory over the Tulsa 66ers in game two of the NBADL Finals tonight at State Farm Arena in front of a sellout crowd of 6,198, the largest to ever see a Vipers game.

“Craig’s got a lot of guts. He made a tough shot,’ Vipers head coach Chris Finch said.

Mike Harris hit a lay-up to tie the game with 55.5 seconds left, setting up Winder’s heroics.

The Vipers (6-2) become the first single-affiliate team and first expansion team to win an NBA Development League Championship. Harris is the first NBA Development League MVP since Ansu Sesay (Greenville Groove, 2002) to win a Championship. The Vipers are the first professional team in the Rio Grande Valley to win a Championship at State Farm Arena and the first to win a Championship since the 2004 Edinburg Roadrunners (Central Baseball League).

“This really speaks to the success of our single-affiliation agreement with the Houston Rockets. Our goal was to bring a championship to the Rio Grande Valley as quickly as possible, and we succeeded. The fan support has been incredible all season. We can’t thank them enough and we look forward to seeing them all back next year. I also want to thank the entire Vipers front office for doing an incredible job of becoming a part of the community and helping to grow Vipers basketball,” Vipers President Brian Michael Cooper said.

The only time a larger crowd is believed to have seen a basketball game in the Rio Grande Valley is October 7, 2009, when 6,300 fans watched the Houston Rockets beat the Boston Celtics on the Vipers’ court at State Farm Arena.

The Vipers led 6-5 in the opening minutes, but the 66ers (4-4) responded with a 6-0 run thanks in-part to four points from Deron Washington. Jonathan Wallace and Rich Melzer hit back-to-back threes as the Vipers went on a 10-run to take a 15-14 lead.

A Julian Sensley three-point play gave the Vipers a 35-27 lead at the midpoint of the second quarter, but the 66ers went on a13-2 run to take a 43-39 lead with 20 seconds remaining. Harris was fouled while attempting a desperation three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left and hit all three shots to bring the Vipers with one point at halftime.

The Vipers opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 51-45 lead in the first 2:38. After a timeout, the 66ers went on a 10-2 run to take a 55-53 lead. After Will Conroy hit a free throw, Harris scored the Vipers’ next six points as they took a 60-57 lead. The 66ers came back to take a 67-64 lead at the end of the third quarter on a JaJuan Smith three-pointer from a few feet behind the arc. It was his second of three such shots in the game.

Down 80-75 with 6:29 remaining, Craig Winder hit a three-pointer and Antonio Anderson nailed a reverse lay-up to tie the game. After a timeout, third-year Viper Stanley Asumnu hit a lay-up to give the Vipers an 82-80 lead. Larry Owens scored the 66ers’ next nine points to give Tulsa an 89-84 lead.