Toros Outlast Skyforce, Advance to D-League Finals
By Matt Moore,
2:02PM, Mon. Apr. 21, 2008
It had been a long season. After spending time in Albuquerque and now Austin, Darvin Ham decided that he'd had enough. Enough of the Sioux Falls Skyforce and their bid to upset the No. 2 seed Austin Toros in the D-League semifinals, that is.
Ham scored 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter to help the Austin Toros to a 99-93 win and Austin's first trip to the D-League finals which begin Monday in Austin. At 34 years old, Ham is trying for one more shot at the NBA, and after a productive training camp with the Mavericks, coach Avery Johnson told Ham to get back into shape in the D-League and come back strong next year. Ham is certainly strong.
After leading by as many as 17 in the third, the Skyforce had crawled their way back within single digits when Spurs prospect Ian Mahinmi went down with a re-aggravated back injury. Ham then proceeded to shake off his first-half frustrations when he picked up three early fouls and played with both a veteran's savvy and a young man's burst of energy.
Mahinmi had 23 to lead the Toros, and will play in Monday's start of a three-game series with the Idaho Stampede for the D-League Championship.
The Skyforce struggled for most of the game, particularly from beyond the arc where they shot a poor 31%. Faced with a feisty small-guard trio, Austin's back-court defense came to play.
"It was probably our best performance of the year, defensively" Austin coach Quin Snyder said after the game. "We were able to rely on our veteran leaders down the stretch and they came through for us."
The Toros won despite yet another fourth-quarter breakdown in defense. This time it was Glen McGowan who came out blistering in the fourth, scoring 9 points, and Carl Elliot, who scored 15 in the final period to pull the Skyforce within 3.
But then, it was time for a former Longhorn, fittingly, to ice the game. Kenton Paulino hit two clutch free throws to seal the victory.
"I wasn't even really thinking about it," Paulino later said. "I was just trying to go out there and do what I've done a million times."
The Toros face another veteran squad – Idaho – on Monday night at the Austin Convention Center at 7pm. The Stampede are led by veteran guard Randy Livingston, and had 18 consecutive wins in the regular season. Tickets are available at austintoros.com .