The sound of the ball hitting on the hardwood, players’ shoes screeching from the stop-and-go running, and the La Verne fans cheering filled the Athletics Pavilion at Frantz Court last Saturday as the women’s basketball team defeated Menlo, 61-46.
With the victory, the Leopards remained unbeaten.
It started out as a tight game going into the half and quickly turned into a route in the last 20 minutes as the Leopards’ key players got going offensively and continued to extend their lead, scoring 37 second half points.
“We really turned it around in the second half,” junior forward Emily Carrillo said.
“We were complacent in the first half and might’ve been a little intimidated by their size, but I think once we actually got in there and started playing with them, we realized we were a better team and started to execute down the stretch.”
Carrillo contributed nine points, nine rebounds and two assists in the victory.
Going into the game against Menlo, La Verne head coach Julie Kline noted on how important it was for her team to improve on the defensive end of the court.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time on the defensive end of the floor,” Kline said. “I think we can do a much better job on the defensive end and then just continue to work on our offense and expand our offensive system.”
Much to Kline’s delight, the Leopards played extremely well on defense, holding the Oaks to 30 percent shooting from the field, forcing 20 turnovers and getting seven steals.
Menlo also struggled from the three-point line, shooting a dismal 3-for-18 in the loss.
“I think it was a combination of bad shooting and our effort on defense. We practice about an hour everyday on defense, and I think we did a really good job that day,” sophomore guard Ashley Paul said.
In the first half, both teams combined to play solid defense and poor offense.
Although La Verne and Menlo both shot 9-for-31 from the field, it was the Leopards that went into halftime with a 24-23 lead, after going on a 6-0 run to close out the half.
While the Leopards’ senior forward Trenecca Jones scored only two points in the first half due to foul trouble, she and Paul got going in the second half, as the Oaks’ offensive woes continued to plague them.
Paul found much of her success from the three-point line as she converted on four of her 14 attempts and led La Verne with 18 points and five rebounds.
“I missed some shots that should’ have gone in, but other than that I thought I did pretty well,” Paul said. “They were much bigger than us and we did a really good job out-rebounding them.”
La Verne’s offense also improved to 48 percent from the field in the second half.
Though Jones’ minutes were limited in the first half due to foul trouble, she finished the game with 17 points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes.
Another key component in the victory for La Verne was the rebounding. ULV out-rebounded Menlo, 50-35.
The Leopards’ senior forward Lillie Parks led La Verne with 10 rebounds.
“They were a lot bigger than us,” freshman forward Clarissa Holz said.
“For me, personally, and I know a couple other girls on the team, thought it was fun playing against a team that was better competition, because lately we haven’t been playing against good teams. It was cool to see how we were able to out-rebound a team that was a lot bigger.”
Holz finished the game with five points, nine rebounds and two assists.
With the victory, La Verne improved its overall record to 4-0 and Menlo dropped to 3-3.
“It feels pretty good,” Carrillo said. “I think it’s nice because I don’t think a lot of people expected us to start (undefeated), especially considering how many people we had graduate. We still have a lot to work on, and it’s amazing how much room we have to improve.”
The Leopards knew the importance of beating Menlo and wanted to go into their 13-day break with a victory as they do not play again until Dec. 19 against Coe (Iowa) at the Redlands Winter Classic. La Verne will also play Marian (Wisconsin) on Dec. 20.
“I think it was very important,” Carrillo said. “It’s frustrating to know that you don’t have games for a while, coming off of a loss. You obviously want to make up for that, and I think the intensity of practice is good because we’re confident, and we know we still have a lot to work on.”
After the Redlands Winter Classic, the Leopards will travel to Phoenix, Ariz., to play in the Grand Canyon Classic where they will face Maryville (Montana) and the College of New Jersey.
“We just want to play more,” Paul said. “This is the time to work on things we’ll need to improve on for the next couple games.”
La Verne returns home on Jan. 3 to face La Serra for the second time this season. The Leopards went the
They then face Bard on Jan. 4 and begin Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play against Pomona-Pitzer on Jan. 8.
Last season, La Verne finished second in conference behind Occidental College.
As of today, the Leopards are the only undefeated team in the SCIAC. Occidental is 2-2.
Richard Lugo can be reached at email@example.com.