Sarah Van Buskirk
The men’s basketball team could not keep their lead against the Chapman Panthers in a 78-73 loss Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards gave their opponents a challenge they were not expecting but are now 2-10 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, while the Panthers move to 11-2.
“We came in knowing we really needed this win,” junior guard Paul Antonis said. “This is a tough team though, being that they are No. 1 in the conference.”
The Panthers won the tip off but the Leopards put points on the board first when junior guard Brian Adams made a jumpshot and drew a foul. His free throw attempt was unsuccessful but the score stood 2-0.
Shortly after, Antonis obtained a defensive rebound and went for a three-pointer. The shot was missed but junior forward Seth Shaw was there for the rebound as well as drawing another foul. Both of Shaw’s free throw attempts were good and the Leopards now had a six-point lead over the Panthers.
Within a four minute window, shots, turnovers and fouls were made on both sides of the court. The score was then 11-10 with the Panthers being in the lead for the first time in the game.
The Panthers’ lead did not last for long when Adams put the Leopards back on top after two jump shots in a row, 14-11.
“We didn’t quit,” junior guard Brad Yasukochi said. “We held some of their players under their average, which was the whole plan.”
The Leopards’ defense started to get loud and remained tight against the Panthers.
Chapman rebutted with a layup but the Leopards then went on a three-minute hot streak, scoring 12 points. La Verne took a big lead, 26-13.
The Leopards’ defense seemed to have been burning out as the Panthers started clicking offensively. The Panthers went on for four scoring plays while holding the Leopards scoreless. The Panthers were now only within three points, 26-23.
For the final three minutes of the half, the game was either the Leopards by two or all tied up. They entered half time with the score being 32-30, Leopards.
“We knew we needed a big second half but we just didn’t meet the needs and goals we had defensively,” junior forward Austin Rapp said.
Both teams entered the second half ready to go. Back and forth stayed steady for the two teams as they remained within a two-point difference for the first nine minutes of the half. Neither side was giving up.
The Panthers got a jump on the Leopards when a layup was made and junior guard Alex Blanco was called for a foul. Chapman’s free throw attempt was successful and they led, 49-45.
A Panther steal after a turnover by Adams pushed Chapman further ahead and they were now up by six.
Blanco brought back some energy to the Leopards with a three point shot but the Panthers matched them and the score still remained a six-point difference. Blanco fired another three-pointer in to trim the deficit just a little more.
The Leopards’ momentum died out as the Panthers went on to extend their lead. With five minutes left in the game, the Leopards were down by seven.
However, a minute later the Leopards quickly closed the gap after two free throws by Antonis and a layup by freshman guard James Tavares.
In the final minutes, the Leopards were moving fast toward a comeback but the Panthers were faster.
The final buzzer rang and the score stood 78-73.
“We need to stay disciplined,” senior guard John Malone II said. “When we are tired we need to remember to stay disciplined and focus on the coaching and strategies we went over in practice.”
The Leopards will travel to face the Occidental Tigers at 2 p.m. Saturday and host the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 for their last two games of the season.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.