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Arsenal Soar Over Thunderbirds, 105 - 103

January 5, 2008 - NBA G League (G League) - Anaheim Arsenal News Release

Anaheim, Calif., January 4, 2008 - The last time the Anaheim Arsenal played at home they won, 133 - 130, in a dramatic overtime game with only 4 eligible Arsenal players left on the court, due to fouls, injuries, and an ejection. Although Friday's game against the Albuquerque Thunderbirds did not go into overtime, it was just as dramatic as its predecessor.

Former Orange County High School phenom and current Thunderbird, DJ Strawberry, helped Albuquerque jump out to a 29 - 27 lead at the end of the first quarter. Strawberry, who is currently on assignment from the Phoenix Suns, had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first 12 minutes of play.

DJ Strawberry and the Thunderbirds continued their strong play in the second quarter. Thunderbird big men; Darvin Ham, Serge Angounou, and Ejike Ugboaja controlled the boards and helped Albuquerque out rebound Anaheim 23 - 17. The Arsenal looked to counter by being more aggressive on the offensive end with several strong drives to the basket by Guillermo Diaz and Will Blalock, who ended up with 13 and 15 points, respectively, by the end of the first half.

Diaz and Blalock's aggressiveness sparked the Arsenal defense, tallying 7 steals by the end of the second quarter. With under a minute to go, the Arsenal finished the half with 2 steals, including a Diaz steal with 10.3 seconds left that led to a fast break dunk by Jamaal Thomas. The dunk helped the Arsenal go up 4 points, 53 - 49, which would ultimately be the score at the sound of the halftime horn.

The Arsenal offensive remained consistent in the third quarter with an alley-oop dunk by Kedrick Brown from Will Blalock, and a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Diaz with 6:20 left in the quarter that made the score 69 - 62, advantage Arsenal. The Thunderbird offense also played well in the quarter and kept the game close through ball distribution and offensive rebounding. Josh Gross of the Thunderbirds pulled down 2 offensive rebounds, including one that resulted in a 2-point put back. The Arsenal however, closed the third quarter strong with another Thomas high-flying dunk, and a another buzzer beating 3-pointer, this time by Marquis Webb, that put the Arsenal up 10 points 79-69 to start the fourth quarter. In the fourth, Albuquerque looked to cut down its 10-point deficit by slowing down the tempo with better ball movement and spacing. Thunderbird point guard Elijah Ingram controlled his team's offensive rhythm by looking for the open man, accounting for 5 Thunderbird assists in the game. However, the Arsenal remained undaunted by the slower tempo and continued to score on fast break points off Blalock and Diaz assists.

With 5:16 left to play, DJ Strawberry looked to take over the game by scoring 7 points on consecutive Thunderbird possessions. The Thunderbirds also tightened up their defense and got within 3 points of the Arsenal, 103 - 100, with less then 30.0 seconds remaining. With 6.1 seconds left, Strawberry continued his clutch offense with a 3-pointer that tied the game 103 - 103.

Anaheim looked to forward Steven Smith on its final offensive possession, and he did not disappoint. Backing down his opponent 18-feet away from the basket, Smith turned around and matched Strawberry's heroics with a field goal that recaptured the lead for the Arsenal with 2.3 seconds left, 105 - 103.

After a Blalock deflection with 0.9 seconds left on the game clock, Albuquerque had one final chance to win or send the game into overtime. On the inbounds Albuquerque forward Ramon Dyer put up a 3-point attempt that nearly went in, but bounced off the rim and gave the Arsenal another dramatic victory at home.

Anaheim Arsenal Head Coach Reggie Geary said after the game, "Being in the lead for most of the game, we shouldn't have had to hit a game winning shot, but Steven hit a great shot."

Geary went on to add, "[It was] nice to see 5 guys in double figures, but more importantly we had 20 assists. If the team buys into the philosophy of sharing the ball we'll be a good team."

Guillermo Diaz led the balanced Arsenal attack with 18 points, while DJ Strawberry led all players with 29 points, but it was not enough to pull off a come from behind victory.

Anaheim will play the Dakota Wizards tonight at the Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 PM. For more information about the Arsenal, call (714) 635-BALL or visit www.anaheimarsenal.com.

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