The La Verne men’s basketball team concluded its season with four Southern California Intercollegiate Conference contests.
On Feb. 14, the Leopards faced Redlands at Frantz Athletic Court. The first half was neck and neck as both teams rallied through to the half with the score 47-42, the Bulldogs in the lead.
With their numerous substitutions and accurate three-point shooting, Redlands overtook the game during the second half, leading by 15 at one point. The Leopards rallied back but ran out of time.
The Bulldogs went on to win, 97-93. Redlands senior guard Amir Mazarei was the high scorer in the game in ending the night with 33 points.
“Redlands is a team of runs so a 20 point lead may seem like a 6 point lead, but what hurt us a lot are turnovers and giving them second opportunities on the offensive end,” said ULV guard Drew Terry. “They make you play faster than usual and overall it’s just a crazy game.”
Terry led the Leopards with 17 points while junior Robert Hughes, freshman Brian Mancilla and senior Aaron Landon added 14 points each.
“It’s always interesting preparing for Redlands,” head coach Gabe Duran said.
He added that the basic practice plans that the team followed throughout the season were disregarded in preparation for the Bulldogs.
Over the weekend, the Leopards were victorious over the Caltech Beavers, 85-52.
A month ago in their first meeting, the Beavers came back and kept the score close in their friendly confines. However, this time around, the Leopards did not let that happen.
“Our zone [defense] essentially beat them the first time,” Duran said.
The plan this time kept La Verne consistent throughout the game and led them to victory.
“It was a cold shooting night for the Leopards as well, but luckily we managed to stick together and pull it out,” Terry said. “The second time around, we were a whole different team.”
Freshman guard Billy Nicolini had a game high 19 points against the Beavers, while Terry chipped in 16 points. Senior Jamel Brown and Hughes also contributed with 11 points each.
On Feb. 19, the Leopards went on the road to play Occidental. Unfortunately for La Verne, the Tigers dominated with an 85-54 victory and climbed closer to taking the top spot in SCIAC.
“We were trying to emphasize competing and rebounding,” Duran said of playing against Oxy.
Brown and Hughes contributed with 11 points each during the game while Hughes had a team high six rebounds and two blocks.
The Leopards have had to overcome a tough first half of the season. With only two seniors on the team this season, the younger players have stepped up this year to contribute major minutes for the Leopards.
“We are an extremely young team and our guys had to grow up real fast this year and they stepped up as basketball players and as young men,” Landon said. “All the guys stuck together and fought for each other in every game.”
Many players are already looking forward to next season where the Leopards hope to carry off the momentum from the second half of this season.
“We would definitely like to end the season on a positive note in hopes it will carry over for next year,” Terry said. “We are certainly playing better basketball lately than we have all season, and are gelling as a team very nicely. I think if we keep it up, I think only good things will come out of it.”
The Leopards are in preparation for their last game of the season at home against Pomona-Pitzer.
The team is already assured of finishing in sixth place in the conference, but would like to pick up its fifth conference win of the season against the Sagehens.
“We would also like to send the two seniors out with some wins as well,” Terry added.
Duran noted that the team would rely on the two starting seniors in their final game as Leopards.
“Hopefully we can ride an emotional wave,” Duran said.
Marilee Lorusso can be reached at email@example.com.