Even though the Sanford Pentagon is in its second year of hosting the NBA Development League, a fair amount of drama has taken place over the previous 25 games.  Friday night’s Sioux Falls Skyforce 99-98 win over the Maine Red Claws ranks near the top for clutch performances on both sides.  

Right away the early lead for intrigue started with a hot start for the ‘Force’s A.J. Davis.  After seeing just spot duty over the first couple of games a starting role suited the guard just fine as he connected on 4 long bombs right out of the gate.  Maine was undeterred with Andre Stringer coming off the bench firing back with three of his own.

The two teams were pretty clingy until Maine (4-1) dominated the third quarter outscoring the home team 25-11 to turn a 7 point deficit at half into a 72-65 lead with 12 minutes left.  Skyforce Guard Michael Williams says increasing the defensive intensity fed the comeback.  “Defensively we were down (in the 3rd quarter).  We picked our energy up, started communicating better on defense and that’s what got us back in the game.”

The fourth quarter was chock-full of moments that could have tipped the balance for either squad.  Midway through the fourth quarter Sioux Falls (2-1) induced a desperation 3 to beat the shot clock that Maine rebounded and scored to take a 5 point lead.  It was a potentially demoralizing moment that the Skyforce shrugged off.  A mere 90 seconds later with the Red Claw lead at 7, Fuquan Edwin buried a three from the left wing and was fouled.  The resultant four point play kickstarted a 9-0 run that put Sioux Falls ahead with 2:36 to play.

Larry Drew II found some solace in that run as he has struggled with his shot during this early season.   When his left corner 3 tied the game at 89 he emphatically pumped his fist.  Williams says the team has rallied around Drew’s struggles.  “He’s been in a little bit of a funk.  Larry just has to get his confidence up and make jumpers more consistently and he’ll be okay.  We’re telling him, ‘You’re going to make the next one.’  We’re going to keep building him up.”  Drew had missed all 7 three-pointers last Saturday against Iowa and 3 more versus Maine before raining home the equalizer.

Finally as the Skyforce carried a 97-96 lead into the closing moments, forward Christian Watford scored a driving layup with 7.2 seconds left to give the visitors the advantage.  The 6-2 Williams tried to do likewise, but a problem arose after deciding to drive into the open space on the right side of the lane.  “I caught a glance at (Omari Johnson) and tried to finesse it.  It came off and Khem (Birch) was there to put it back.  He’s a beast on the boards and has really been helping us defensively.”  However one last chance for heroism remained.  A desperation heave by Watford fell short and Maine’s unbeaten string to start the season was ended.  Video evidence presented below.

For Maine, guard Chris Babb scored 25 counters, while guard Tim Frazier nearly amassed a triple double with 17 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds.  Watford finished with 16 points and 11 boards.  For Sioux Falls Davis parlayed his hot start into 26 to lead all scorers followed by Edwin with 18 points and 9 rebounds, Williams contributed 13 points, while Birch posted 11 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Maine will head to Canton to face the Charge on Sunday while Sioux Falls will host the Fort Wayne Mad Ants Saturday.