Leading by as many as 25 points, the Texas Legends never surrendered their hold on Sunday evening’s game against the South Bay Lakers, winning 126-116. Fueled by a 44-point first quarter, Texas ended the first frame already up double digits and captured the victory at the brand new UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.
Donald Sloan entered the starting lineup and finished with a uniform 30 points. He also dished a team-best seven assists and hit the glass for six rebounds. Fellow guard Justin Dentmon once again eclipsed the 20-point barrier, finishing with 21 while sinking eight of nine free throws and picking up five steals.
In just three games so far, Jameel Warney recorded his second double-double of the young year. The sophomore Legend finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds (six offensive), a pair of steals and a block in a game-high 40 minutes.
“You always have to be ready to play all 48 minutes,” says Warney. “The coaches have a lot of trust in me. Our bigs were in foul trouble so they trust me a lot to put me in these positions to play those type of minutes. I showed them over and over again last year I can play these minutes. It’s a testament to my mental toughness, me being in shape and trying to play hard every possession. I was happy I could play 40 minutes and help the team get a win.”
Warney also got in on the distribution act, handing out five assists.
“I trust my teammates to the fullest. I’m always the first one to throw the extra pass. If I see a mismatch in the post, I’m going to throw it. My teammates make me better by spacing the floor and allowing me to pick the defense apart. That’s what I do, I try to get my teammates involved and make it easier for everybody.”
After a narrow defeat at the hands of the Agua Caliente Clippers on Friday, Texas exits the Los Angeles area with a split.
“It was good to get back on the court after the tough loss against the Clippers. We played well, we played our game and came out with a win and we’re all happy with that.”
Up by 25 in the second quarter, things got as close as one point late, but the Legends never squandered their lead from the tip to the final buzzer. No matter the circumstance, you can count on the Legends to run the ball up and down the court in a frenzy.
“We play so fast, whether we’re up 40 or down 40. It’s a lot of possessions but we do a great job of running and playing our game. Hate it or love it, that’s how we’re going to play.”
A key moment in the game came with 2:39 to play. After a missed free throw, Warney picked up an offensive rebound and found Dentmon for a three-pointer to give the Legends a nine point advantage, 119-110.
“It was definitely a good play. Coach always tells us the best three-pointers come off of offensive rebounds. I got the ball and Dentmon is one of the best players on our team so it was a no-brainer giving it off to him. I’m glad he made the shot.”
The little things define Warney, who’s also capable of making the big play at the game’s biggest moments. “It’s what I want to do. I pride myself on doing the dirty work, doing things that people don’t really give recognition to. The first game I dove on a ball to stop a fast break. I’m going to do the little things to keep our team up by one point at the end of the game.”
First round pick John Gillon made his G League debut and nabbed seven points in 11 minutes off the bench, hitting three of his first four professional shots. Kyle Collinsworth notched a double-double of 12 points, 13 rebounds (five offensive) and added three steals to his well-rounded line.
J.J. Avila contributed 10 points to set an early season-high with two blocked shots while Brandon Ashley followed up a strong outing with another, scoring nine points and hauling in six rebounds.
Before their home opener next Saturday, the Legends will journey to Oklahoma City for a tilt with the Blue on Tuesday night at 7 PM CT.