Missed free throws halt Leo wins

by Rosie Sinapi
Editor in Chief

Healing wounds after two close games, the men’s basketball team faces Whittier College tomorrow night.

La Verne desperately needs a win to stay within reach of the first and second place teams, both of which handed La Verne a loss this week. The Leos are currently 6-3, SCIAC, and 12-7, overall.

The Poets, although in last place, are just one more hurdle the Leos must jump to finish the season.

Last week, the Leos were hoping to get an automatic berth to the Div. III playoffs with a conference championship. After two games decided in the last seconds, La Verne is trying to maintain a winning attitude despite a quick slide from first to third.

Hailed as the game of the season, the team fell short last Saturday against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 81-84.

It had all the makings of a ULV win. Coming into the game tied with the Sagehens, the Div. III western Region third ranked Leopards hoped to gain sole possession of first place.

“They were a better team tonight,” said Leopard Head Coach Gary Stewart after the close loss to the Sagehens.

As they had done in their first outing against Pomona-Pitzer in January, it looked as if the Leos were going to run away with the game early on.

Leading by 11 points just minutes into the first half, Leo starters junior Cedric Jones and senior Will English had no problem pacifying the towering power of SCIAC Sagehen standouts Steve Iverson, Erik Lund and Phil Kelly.

Thanks to five unanswered points, Pomona-Pitzer pulled within a point of the lead with nine minutes left in the period. Senior Leonard Aguilar boosted the Leos lead by hitting two free throws at the line and followed it up with a lay up with an assist by league leader Jones.

Slowing up the Leopards second big run was the presence of numerous fouls and missed shots on both sides. By the end of the night, 47 points were earned on free throws between the two teams.

“Usually when you lose there is a lot of missed opportunity…it’s played for 40 minutes and did anyone think we’d run away with the game,” said Stewart.

Missed opportunities marred the end of the first half. With just under two minutes Leopard senior Dominck Mumolo halfway down court had the ball stolen by Sagehen Jason Lowery who passed to Jake Guadnola who nailed it for three points. Thus giving the Sagehens the lead, 34-32.

Looking promising during the first half, by the end of the half the Leos were losing 36-38.

“You’re always concerned about building an early lead,” said Sagehen Head Coach Charles C. Katsiaficas. “As long as they don’t allow it to effect execution, time will go up.”

Taking advantage of this, Pomona-Pitzer came into the second half with the same game. Not visibly concerned about the Leos’ early lead, they opened the period with five straight points, two off free throws.

With 12 minutes left, Leo strong man junior Tom Aiono fouled out shortly be­fore his team tied the game. Just another hindrance in the game with Aiono leading the SCIAC in field goal percentage.

Pulling within a point of Pomona-Pitzer, the Leopards scored on a flurry of shots, but it was the accurate shot of senior Mack Reliford with help by junior Fitzgerald Moore, SCIAC’s overall scoring leader, that pulled the Leos to a tie 58-58 with 11:42 left in the game.

Bouncing back and forth but always staying within four points of the Sagehens, Leo fans were on the edge on their seats. Another series of fouls slowed down the game. But like a western shoot out, after English tied up the game 70-70, Travis Greer came back with two points from the line.

With two minutes left in the game, the Leos managed to keep it within two, but the Leos missed with 15 seconds left in the game after a turnover.

It looked as if the game was over for ULV when senior Michael Wollangk came back with two points. Sweating at the buzzer, the Sagehens prayers were answered after Wollangk missed a three-pointer which would have tied it up.

Wednesday they faced the only other SCIAC team they had suffered a loss to this season, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. After losing to Pomona-Pitzer last Saturday a win was imperative to stay within striking distance of first place.

Not only were they tied in SCIAC with the Stags, but on paper they were even. La Verne who currently leads SCIAC in points per game, 89, rebounds per game, 41, and steals, 11, suffered yet another loses which came down to the wire, 67-69.

Missing the much needed power of junior Raphael Glover and Moore, ULV did not fare any better against the Stags.

After obtaining an early lead, La Verne fell behind after a six minute shut out of the Stags but scored only six points to bring the score to 29-23.

With :27 seconds left in the half, the game’s top scorer, Stag Kevin Zitar, tied it up with two from the line, 33-33. Teammate Ross Sluser came back with a three-point buzzer beater to end the half.

The second half was action packed with the Leos and Stags playing tag with one another. Aguilar managed to tie up the game with a three-pointer just seconds into the half. He came back to score two more, but the Stags took the lead, at one point leaving the Leopards six points behind.

The always dominating English and Jones pulled ULV up, but it was the overall quick passing game of the Leopards that finally allowed them to pull ahead.

Junior Chris Francis came through by hitting two three pointers, one of which came off of his own steal.

But as with Pomona-Pitzer, the Leopards could not keep their opponents down.

With the Leos lead at 67-64 and a minute left, Chris Bruce nailed a free throw and if that was not enough salt in the wounds of La Verne, Stag Darren Gravely sent one in from down town. With the game at 68-67 in favor of the Stags, La Verne with :17 seconds left was unable to produce any type of offense or free throws.

Rosie Sinapi, Editor in Chief
Rosie Sinapi
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