Inspiration was the theme of Tuesday night’s final game for the men’s basketball team.
In an exciting 88-76 win over the Redlands Bulldogs, La Verne fought hard to send its seniors off with a home victory.
“We haven’t won on a senior night in a while,” said senior forward Brian Schumm. “Emotions were more involved this game because it meant a lot to everybody.”
La Verne will lose Schumm due to graduation, along with guards Matt Heyd and Billy Nicolini, who both had standout nights.
Heyd scored a game-high 17 points and Nicolini added 15 points before fouling out in the last eight minutes of the game.
“These guys have meant so much to our program,” said head coach Richard Reed.
Led by Schumm, La Verne out-rebounded Redlands, 41-28. The strong rebounding is what kept La Verne on top for almost the entire game.
With a halftime lead of 44-40 the Leopards tried to come out in the second half with the same momentum.
When the team returned, it showed no mercy and its inspiration turned into overdrive.
Hyde scored a quick three pointer to expand the Leopard lead and momentum. After that, baskets by Mychal Thomas, Jonathan Bastos and Nicolini allowed the Leopards to pull ahead with a nine-point lead.
Redlands battled back and brought them to within four points with an easy jumper by Andrew Maertens.
With less than 10 minutes left in the second half, La Verne felt the pressure to keep the lead. Nicolini scored two huge three pointers to put the Leopards’ up 70-63 before receiving his fifth and final foul.
When he walked off the court, the crowd immediately stood and cheered for the Leopard guard who gave four years to the program.
“It was just great. It was great to get recognition,” Nicolini said.
With the foul-out of Nicolini, Redlands pushed to capitalize on his absence, but point guard John Leggett was there to lead the Leopards. Leggett recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists.
With the final seconds of the game winding down, the crowd started chanting, “Let’s go seniors,” as the La Verne 88-76 victory was all but secured.
“When people say words can’t describe it, they really mean it,” Heyd said. “All four years have been worth it.”
La Verne sealed the win by running down the clock and ending their season with a record of 5-9 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and a 9-16 overall mark.
Unfortunately, even with the win La Verne did not qualify for the SCIAC tournament which will be held Friday.
“I wish we could have won more games for them,” Reed said, referring to the seniors. “But their legacy will carry on for years to come.”
Ashley Morgado can be reached at email@example.com.