The NBA G League season is officially over as a new champion was crowned last Thursday, April 14. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are the 2022 champions after they defeated the Delaware Blue Coats by a score of 131-114 to conclude a two-game sweep.
This was Delaware’s second-straight appearance in the G League Finals but, in both years, they fell just shy of bringing home the gold.
There was no love lost in Thursday’s game between the Vipers and Blue Coats. Both teams played with high energy and grit, but it quickly became an emotional game due to what was at stake.
The first quarter saw the teams exchange the lead until the Vipers went on a run to end the quarter up 15 points. Delaware would never be able to regain the lead throughout the remainder of the game, but they did bring the fight up until the very end.
There were several moments that saw the Coats go on offensive runs to cut the Vipers’ lead down. Many of those runs were powered by the home crowd’s energy. Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers and star Tyrese Maxey, singer Christian Crosby, and 2,619 additional screaming fans were there in support of the Blue Coats.
While the energy and fight was there, Delaware’s lack of size became a major disadvantage for them in this final game as they were out-rebounded 59-41 in the paint. Center Charles Bassey, forward Charlie Brown Jr., and guard Jaden Springer, all average over four boards a game and were unavailable for the Blue Coats that night.
“All year, we’ve been trying to not worry about who or who isn’t with us,” Blue Coats Assistant Coach God Shamgod Jr. said. “We just try to go out there and fight, and that is what we saw from us tonight. I think we gained a lot of people’s respect.”
The Blue Coats certainly brought that fight against the Vipers. Guard Karim Mane and center Joel Ntambwe, two players that the Coats acquired toward the end of the season, made Rio Grande Valley work on the defensive end. Mane picked up much of the ball-handling duties and shot 5-8 from the field for 20 points. Meanwhile, Ntambwe grabbed seven rebounds and posted 14 points.
The veterans of the team also played well offensively. Guard Myles Powell, who has been a standout for the Coats all season, dropped 28 points. Forward Aaron Henry and guard Jared Brownridge each contributed double-digit scoring themselves with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Despite the strong offensive outings, Delaware still played from behind much of the game due to their inability to stop the Vipers on defense. Their opponents attacked them in the paint, which was where the Coats were most vulnerable with nobody on the roster taller than 6’8”.
By the fourth quarter, Rio Grande Valley was still in control. However, the emotions from both teams were not, as the benches were cleared just around the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Blue Coats’ Mane, Powell, and Shaquille Harrison all were ejected from the game. Trevelin Queen of the Vipers was also ejected and was rained with boos from the home crowd on his way out.
While the final outcome was not what Delaware was hoping for and emotions overtook the game, there is still plenty of optimism within the organization.
“As a coach, all you ask for is guys to believe in the team and believe in themselves,” Shamgod said. “They could have easily laid down, but even when we were down by 20 [points], they fought to bring it within eight. It just shows what type of guys we have and the culture we built. This season has been a great opportunity for them and their careers.”
There is no telling what the future will look like for the Delaware Blue Coats. Which players will be back, and who will be moving on? While that uncertainty may be in the back of many people’s minds, the goal is likely to remain the same for the organization: get back to the G League Finals and capture a title.
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