In a battle of two postseason hopefuls, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers survived the Sioux Falls Skyforce 116-112 at the Sanford Pentagon Friday night. No matter who came out on top, it was going to be a gritty win.

Over the final five minutes of the contest, Rio Grande Valley (19-14) dug in their heels and would not allow the win to escape their grasp. Sioux Falls (22-12) surely tried hard to pry it away with at least five attempts to either tie the game or make it a one-point affair.

In the end, Skyforce Head Coach Nevada Smith knew the team had their chances.

“We just didn’t make a couple plays down the stretch and they did. That was the difference. Defensively we knew what they were running and we didn’t do a great job guarding it. We also have to convert the out-of-timeout plays (offensively) late in the game.”

Skyforce Forward Stefan Jankovic had a career high 20 points off the bench and is looking forward to the Saturday night rematch knowing they can improve after the hosts gave up 70 points in the first half on Friday.

“In the first half we weren’t locked in especially right away. We did finish strong and it came down to the final two plays. If we start the game tomorrow like we did in the second half tonight, we’ll bounce back well.”

Patrick Miller led the Skyforce with 26 points and 15 assists while Keith Benson racked up his 21st double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Vipers had three players with 19 points apiece with the most impressive line belonging to Darius Morris and his triple-double (19 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds) with Isaiah Taylor and J.P. Tokoto each doing their part.

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