3-25-12-WK Wizards Chris Wright

Dakota’s Chris Wright goes to the basket against Erie on Sunday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

Heading into Sunday afternoon’s game against the Dakota Wizards, the Erie BayHawks were just outside of playoff position in the D-League’s chase for the postseason. The Wizards let them right back in.

Dakota’s offense ground to a complete halt in the middle two quarters, and that was too much to overcome as the BayHawks gutted out a 93-87 victory.

The win left the Wizards and BayHawks with identical 23-20 records, locked in a three-way tie with Iowa for seventh place in the overall standings. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

Tyrone Brazelton scored a season-high 22 points for the BayHawks. Brazelton also made the game’s most important basket, a 3-pointer with 21.6 seconds left that extended Erie’s lead to 91-87.

“I think he stepped up to the challenge of going against (Dakota’s) Stef Hannah, who is playing as good as anybody in the league right now,” Erie coach Jay Larranaga said. “Stef still had a very good game, but I think Tyrone was motivated to face him.”

The D-League playoff race is incredibly tight, with seven teams separated by a total of 2½ games, making each contest vital as the season winds down.

The Wizards played with a corresponding level of urgency in the first quarter. Dakota attacked the basket relentlessly, scoring 22 points in the paint in the first 12 minutes alone. Six layups, two dunks and a putback helped stake the Wizards to a 30-18 lead after one.

Marcus Dove scored 10 of his 14 in the first quarter, and Hannah chipped in nine.

But the BayHawks were able to slow the pace to their liking and work their way back into the game. The Wizards scored just 29 points in the second and third quarters combined.

“The first quarter, I felt, was the only good quarter that we played,” Wizards coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “I thought that we got in such a scramble mode, and we quit playing defense. I thought our offense just wasn’t clicking.”

The Wizards also stopped working the glass. After winning the battle of the boards in the first quarter, Dakota was outrebounded 37-22 in the middle two periods.

“There was just a big drop in energy during a certain part of the game,” Bjorkgren said. “We were just trying to get it back with different combinations.”

Things got particularly bad for the Wizards in the closing minutes of the third quarter. The BayHawks scored the final 14 points of the period, eight coming from D.J. Kennedy, to take a 70-59 lead.

The Wizards finally got back in sync midway through the fourth quarter and were nearly able to steal the game away. A pair of buckets from Justin Johnson sparked a quick 10-point surge, closing the gap to 80-77.

The Wizards got as close as 88-87 on a reverse layup by Hannah with 1:40 to go. They had a chance to take the lead, but Hannah’s 3-point attempt was off the mark.

The final 90 seconds was marred by a series of turnovers, but Brazelton’s 3-pointer was enough for Erie to squeak by.

“After that first quarter it just felt that we were playing from behind even though we were ahead,” Bjorkgren said. “We made a run at the end, but it was just so late.”

Hannah led the Wizards with 23 points, five steals and five assists. Chris Wright, on assignment from the Golden State Warriors, had 12 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of spectacular dunks in the second quarter.

The teams play again tonight at the Civic Center.

Erie 18 38 70 93

Wizards 30 46 59 87

ERIE (93): Mychel Thompson 2-6 0-0 5, Joey Graham 8-13 2-3 18, Kyle Goldcamp 7-14 5-8 19, D.J. Kennedy 5-17 6-8 16, Tyrone Brazelton 8-16 3-4 22, Kyle Spain 2-10 0-0 4, Marvin Phillips 3-6 0-0 6, Dominic Calegari 1-2 0-0 3, Jeremy Green 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-84 16-23 93.

WIZARDS (87): Taylor Griffin 1-2 1-2 4, Chris Wright 6-15 0-0 12, Marcus Dove 7-15 0-0 14, Stefhon Hannah 9-18 4-4 23, Maurice Baker 4-6 3-3 12, Shy Ely 1-5 2-2 5, Leo Lyons 2-4 0-0 5, Justin Johnson 3-11 2-3 8, Tommy Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Mike Anderson 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 34-80 14-16 87.

3-pointers: E 5-15 (Brazelton 3-5, Calegari 1-1, Thompson 1-2, Spain 0-2, Kennedy 0-5), W 5-15 (Griffin 1-1, Lyons 1-1, Baker 1-2, Ely 1-4, Hannah 1-5, Wright 0-1, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds: E 57 (Goldcamp 12), W 46 (Wright 8, Dove 8). Assists: E 21 (Graham 6), W 18 (Hannah 5, Baker 5). Fouls: E 19, W 20. Technical fouls (team): W 1 — defensive 3 seconds. Steals: E 15 (Kennedy 4, Phillips 4), W 13 (Hannah 5). Turnovers: E 20, W 23. Blocked shots: E 4 (four with 1), W 3 (Griffin 1, Dove 1, Smith 1).

A: 2,217.

Records: E 23-20, W 23-20.

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Reach sports editor Lou Babiarz at 250-8243 or Lou.Babiarz@bismarcktribune.com.