Dynamic defense led the Sioux Falls Skyforce to a 103-94 victory Friday night over the Idaho Stampede at the Sanford Pentagon. 

As if the 3,081 on hand didn’t know, the two teams competing on Heritage Court were battling for their playoff lives.  In the first half, both teams dug in defensively.  As an illustration, the teams each scored 9 points in the first 9 minutes and shot under 40 percent in the first half from the floor.   Call it the feeling out process if you wish, but the high-stakes on the line necessitated a cautious approach.  The winner of the game would be in the playoff picture and the other out.

Certainly teams want to play well for the full 48 minutes, however the 12 minutes after intermission for Sioux Falls (26-19) ranks among the best this season.  The Skyforce outscored Idaho 35-20 on 15-22 shooting (68 percent) with 24 points in the paint extending the lead to 21 by quarter’s end.  Conversely, the Stampede (23-20) could only muster 6 of 18 from the floor and got no offensive rebounds in that stanza.

Upon his return from Miami, guard DeAndre Liggins relished the opportunity to get back on the court.  “I haven’t played in a five-on-five setting in a long time.  I (wanted) to get back into rhythm.”  Liggins also was heavily involved in the defensive effort.  “Coach told us to ‘be nasty.’  That means get all the 50/50 balls and do all the dirty work.  I wanted to get into Kevin Murphy and do what I do defensively.”

One of the by-products of the defensive effort was the immense amount of blocked shots racked up by the home squad.  Anthony Mason, Jr. led the party with 4 swats, Justin Hamilton sent 3 away and so did Henry Walker.  Total blocks reached 16 for Sioux Falls which ties a franchise record for a single game.  Ironically, the last time it happened was against the 1998-99 edition of the Stampede on February 28 of that season.  That year also marked the season record for swats with 346 which will never be broken unless the D-League starts playing more than 50 games in a season.

In case you missed it, Hamilton returned to the Skyforce as an assigned player from the Miami Heat.  It was also the first NBADL game this season he’s played without the face guard.  The Skyforce used his 15 points and 10 rebounds to good effect.  Leading the balanced scoring attack was Tre Kelley and Mason, Jr. who each netted 17.  Walker muscled his way to 15 points with Liggins posting 12 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.  The NBADL scoring leader forward Kevin Murphy and former NBA forward Derrick Caracter each tallied 21 points with Vander Blue adding 19 to lead the Stampede. All of the above prominently featured for your eyes to see below.

The same two teams will tangle again Saturday night with the onus on Idaho to produce a road split.  Regardless of what happens, both teams still hold their destiny in their hands.  The mountain just gets steeper with each loss.