Spurs blow out Vipers to book place in conference finals

Austin held RGV to 25 points or less in all four quarters


Matt Costello is not going to wow anyone with massive dunks and flashy passes, he prefers to let his final stats speak for his play. 

The second-year player finished with 18 points and team-highs in rebounds (seven) and blocks (four) as the Austin Spurs blew out the RGV Vipers 117-90 in the conference semifinals on Monday night. 

“This was the first time all year we’ve gotten the lead in the first half and kind of blown it out. It was a good time to do it,” Costello said. “If we play our game, I’ll feel pretty good about how we do. I’m happy with our team right now. I’ll take them over anybody.”

Derrick White led the team with 20 points and six assists. Darrun Hilliard nearly matched his team-leading season average of 20.7 points per game with 19 points. Amid Brimah added 10 points and five rebounds off the bench. 

Defensively,  Austin held RGV to 44.3 percent shooting and 19.2 from 3-point range, well below their season average of 34.5 percent from long range. The Spurs scored 28 points from 20 turnovers. 

The Vipers’ biggest lead of the game was three points after a run midway through the first quarter. Costello dominated in the second quarter, scoring 10 points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking three shots to help the Spurs pull ahead for good. 

“Matt was great offensively and defensively,” Spurs head coach Blake Ahearn said. “That’s the best thing about our group is that every single night, it’s someone different. We did a great job of sharing the basketball and Matt benefited from that.”

Austin and RGV traded runs and the lead in the first quarter, but  Jeff Ledbetter hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to give the Spurs a four-point lead.

Costello started his dominant second quarter with a reverse layup, a rebound and a block. His second layup in as many minutes gave the Spurs a seven-point lead and led Vipers forward Chris Walker to slam the ball in frustration and get a technical foul. 

“We wanted to come out in the second quarter and make sure we got better,” Hilliard said. “The score didn’t do justice to the caliber of team they are. We had a lot of good players step up today. I’m happy for all the guys.” 

RGV opened the second half on an 8-0 run, but Austin stayed hot from long range when Hilliard and White hit back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the massive lead intact. 

The starters played just seven minutes of the fourth quarter before the reserves came in. Kendal Yancy, the former University of Texas guard who returned to Austin for the second time this season in late March, made a 3-pointer. 

“Our effort defensively was unbelievable,” Ahearn said. “They’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket. From the very beginning, we set the tone defensively and we said from the beginning of the season that as long as we do that, everything will fall into place.”

The Spurs have home court advantage for the rest of the playoffs after Toronto 905 beat the top overall seed Westchester Knicks earlier Monday night.

Austin will host either the South Bay Lakers or the Reno Bighorns — who face off Tuesday night — in the Western Conference Finals on Thursday at 7 p.m. The best-of-three G-League Finals are set to begin on April 8.

“We don’t want to get too caught up in other teams and what they do,” Hilliard said. “We want to concentrate on our game plan and keep doing what we’ve been doing for the whole year. Just keep sharing the ball, playing hard and playing for each other.”

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