AUSTIN, Texas - The game - and the series - was within reach for the Dakota Wizards. But in the end, the Austin Toros Squeaked by.
Reserve guard Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson scored a season-high 19 points - nearly triple his average of 6.5 per game - to spur the Toros to a 102-90 victory over the Wizards in Game 3 of their D-League quarterfinal series.
The Toros, who won the best-of-3 series 2-1, will play the winner of the Reno-Rio Grande Valley series.
"I went up to Squeaky at the end and joked that he only shoots the ball against us," Wizards coach Rory White said. "The way the game was going, someone from one team was going to be the deciding guy to determine the game. He stepped up."
Johnson wasn't the most likely candidate to be that guy. The Toros are loaded with NBA-caliber talent. Curtis Jerrells and Alonzo Gee, who are both on assignment from the San Antonio Spurs, contributed 25 and 24 points, respectively. Marcus Williams, who had a call-up offer earlier this week, had just seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
But in the second half, it was Johnson who hit the big shots. He scored 14 of his points in the second half, including three of his four 3-pointers. Despite never being a big scorer, Johnson has been a dangerous 3-point shooter, shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc in his three years in the league.
As he did on Friday, Marcus Dove helped the Wizards get off to a quick start, and Dakota led for most of the first quarter.
But the Jerrells got the Toros going with a drive to the hoop, then a 3-pointer. Johnson followed with another 3, giving Austin its first lead (21-19). The Toros never trailed again.
"We didn't have the killer instinct," White said. "We had the chance to pull away in the first half."
Neither team was able to pull away. The Toros led 48-43 at the half, and Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the third to preserve Austin's lead (70-65) heading into the fourth. White conceded that during some stretches the game was ugly.
"During a timeout I told our guys that (the Toros) are turning the ball over, and it's our opportunity to take it away," White said. "It was like we would go, 'We'll go home.' And they'd go, 'No, we'll go home.' "
A 7-0 run seemed to put the Wizards on the ropes, and the Toros led 93-84 after a pair of free throws by Jerrells with 2:19 to play.
But Lester Hudson gave the Wizards life with consecutive 3-pointers, making it a three-point game with 1:38 to go. Dakota then came up with a defensive stop, but Hudson lost the ball on the next possession, leading to a dunk by Gee.
The Wizards never scored again.
"That's part of what Lester has to learn, especially as a point guard," White said. "He had made two 3's so calm down, use your judgment."
Hudson still ended up leading the Wizards with 21 points. Renaldo Major chipped in 17 and Dove added 13. Corsley Edwards had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
But the Wizards struggled at the line, hitting just 19 of 31, and were outrebounded despite seemingly having an edge inside.
"I don't think we had that mental toughness tonight," White said. "The homecourt prevailed for them. We got ourseves in trouble, because you can't lose that first game at home.
"We had our chances," White said. "We just couldn't seize the moment."
Wizards 25 43 65 90
Austin 25 48 70 102
WIZARDS (90): Maurice Baker 2-6 2-2 6, Lester Hudson 9-20 0-0 21, Renaldo Major 4-11 9-11 17, Corsley Edwards 4-12 2-3 10, Marcus Dove 5-8 3-9 13, Curtis Withers 3-6 3-6, 9, David Bell 1-5 0-0 3, Darren Cooper 3-9 0-0 7, James Jackson 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 33-80 19-31 90.
AUSTIN (102): Curtis Jerrells 8-20 8-8 25, Alonzo Gee 9-14 5-9 24, Marcus Williams 3-14 1-2 7, Eddie Basden 5-10 0-0 12, Michael Joiner 3-7 1-2 8, Carldell Johnson 6-11 3-4 19, Luke Bonner 2-4 0-0 5, David McClure 1-1 0-0 2, Cory Underwood 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 37-81 18-27 102.
3-pointers: W 5-17 (Hudson 3-7, Bell 1-3, Cooper 1-4, Major 0-1, Baker 0-2), A 10-24 (Johnson 4-6, Basden 2-4, Gee 1-1, Joiner 1-2, Bonner 1-2, Jerrells 1-7, Williams 0-2). Rebounds: W 47 (Edwards 10), A 50 (Basden 10). Assists: W 12 (Withers 3), A 15 (Williams 9). Fouls: W 22, A 25. Steals: W 11 (Dove 3), A 10 (Jerrells 3, Johnson 3). Turnovers: W 16, A 17. Blocked shots: W 5 (Dove 2), A 5 (Johnson 2).
Series: Austin wins 2-1.