The Leopards started the 2022 season with a strong 97-75 victory against the Cal Miramar Falcons Tuesday night at Frantz Athletic Court.
“It’s just really cool to get this win as a team, you know. It wasn’t just one person that came out here and got it done, the whole team got it done,” sophomore center Brandin Ziegler said.
The Leopards won the tip off and junior forward Kyler Harvey drained a three pointer to get things started. Both teams swapped leads in the beginning until a baseline inbound play got stolen and run back for a layup by senior guard Brad Yasukochi to make it 11-8 Leopards.
“We were able to play some decent defense and kind of get some easy baskets that way,” head coach Richard Reed said. “That’s one of the focuses that we try to do, try to see if we can get some offense from our defense.”
From there the Leopards took control and never trailed for the rest of the game. The team caught a groove and started to get good separation after Ziegler made a basket, then immediately came up with a steal down low and made a breakout pass to freshman guard Carlos Bedolla for the layup to make it 31-17 Leopards.
It was then Cal Miramar’s turn to find their momentum and they threatened to overtake the lead as they brought it to a four-point game at 33-29 Leopards. Despite the Falcons’ best efforts, the Leopards regained their composure and got back in the driver’s seat.
Freshman guard and forward Simon Creel nailed a three pointer to make it 47-32 Leopards. Ziegler made a free throw in the dying seconds of the first half, and the first half ended with a score of 48-32 Leopards.
The Leopards picked up right where they left off in the second half and got things started with Harvey making both of his free throws and then following that up defensively by making a huge block.
“It felt good, man,” Harvey said. “We worked a long way to get here, and as coach said, defense and rebounds win you games.”
From there, the confidence of the Leopards really started to show as Yasukochi went up for a layup that was contested by two Cal Miramar players but still made the basket and then flexed his arms to his teammates.
In case one was wondering how good things were going for the Leopards, at one point senior guard John Malone II missed his target with a pass and hit the back of a Cal Miramar player. It bounced off the player’s back and into Creel’s hands and he put it in to make it 68-45 Leopards.
Shortly after, the Leopards captured their largest lead in the game when Bedolla made both of his free throws to make it a commanding 75-50 Leopards’ lead. From there, both teams went back and forth all the way to the end, but it was not enough for the Falcons to make a comeback.
Cal Miramar had no answers for the Leopards, and the Leopards cruised to a 97-75 opening night victory.
“It was just like pure energy out of all of us which got us this win, like we all had each other’s back,” Creel said.
The Leopards then hit the road, visiting Southern Utah on Thursday night, followed by trips to Life Pacific and Fresno Pacific next Tuesday and Wednesday. The team returns home to Frantz Athletic Court to face Willamette at 2 p.m. Nov. 23.
Jack Janes can be reached at email@example.com.