Stampede's playoff hopes dim as comeback falls short

Idaho opens three-game homestand with a loss; has 10 games to make the playoffs.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMarch 13, 2014 

The Idaho Stampede ran out of time Wednesday night against Santa Cruz at CenturyLink Arena.

Now, with just 10 games remaining, the Stampede's playoff chances seem to be running out of time, too.

"I don't know if you've got any room for error at all in there," coach Michael Peck said after Idaho's 111-110 home loss.

The Stampede trailed by as many as 18 points against the Warriors before a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback. Idaho, however, never took the lead as Santa Cruz made 9-of-10 free throws in the final minutes.

Idaho, which started the season 8-0, is now two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the 17-team NBA Development League. The Stampede (21-19) trail Sioux Falls (23-17) by two games and Santa Cruz (24-17) by 2.5.

The path won't get easier for Idaho, which plays eight of its last 10 games against teams above it in the standings. The Stampede host Reno (24-14) on Friday and Saturday - pivotal games for a playoff push.

"We can't give any away," said Peck, whose team has lost four of its last five games.

The losing has coincided with a spate of roster moves. The Stampede have added five players in the last two weeks with former Marquette guard Vander Blue and Portland Trail Blazer assignee Allen Crabbe playing their first game for the team Wednesday.

Blue was 3-of-15 from the field and had 12 points. Crabbe scored 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting. The pair combined for three 3-pointers on 13 attempts.

"Chemistry is always tough for anybody. Anybody that comes in and is trying to get a feel for themselves," said guard Dee Bost, who was 1-for-8 from the field. "The whole team is trying to find some chemistry."

That was evident on the defensive end where a lack of communication often led to easy baskets for Santa Cruz. On the final play of the third quarter, as Idaho was making its comeback, the Warriors executed a backdoor cut for an easy lay-up. Stampede players were caught off guard.

It happened way too often. Santa Cruz shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.

"I don't think we communicated anything. We're trying to react by sight. Defensively, you can't. You've got to communicate and talk," Peck said.

Idaho has 10 games left to figure it out. Ten games left to make a playoff run. Ten games left and not much breathing room.

"Everybody wants to make the playoffs. You get to keep playing and it's good for the team. It's very important for us," Bost said. "But if you think about it too much that's when you start doing stuff you don't normally do. We need to go out there with clear heads and keep playing."

Time is running out.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444

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