A last minute rally gave the La Verne Leopards a boost over the SAGU American Indian Warriors for a 69-65 win Friday at the Frantz Athletic Court.
The win improved La Verne to 2-4 overall and dropped SAGU down to 1-5.
“It’s great that we came out with a win. No matter how ugly it needs to be sometimes, a win is a win,” junior guard Jonas Holt said. “One thing that we did well was that no matter the situation, we always stuck together as a team and stayed as a unit to try to win this game.”
The game started with La Verne getting three offensive rebounds but failing to score, so the Warriors went down the other way and got on the board first with a layup making it 2-0. La Verne then tied it up until SAGU hit a big three to make the score 7-4 with 17:06 to go in the first half.
The game went a whole minute without scoring until the Leopards responded with a three from Holt, bringing La Verne within two points, 7-5.
At the five minute mark of the first half, back-and-forth play continued and SAGU led 25-17 until freshman guard Tyler Matthews hit a three-pointer to bring the Leopards within striking range, down by five points.
La Verne then scored on the next possession, but the Warriors answered with a three-pointer of their own, making it 28-22. La Verne had their “go get back” moment as junior forward and second top scorer of the night Kyler Harvey hit a three-pointer, making the score 28-25 with three minutes left to go in the half.
“Going forward the rest of the season, I’m really looking forward to us getting better as a team and becoming more of a unit,” Harvey said. “There’s still things we have to work on and get better at, which we will, but overall I loved our effort as a team to get the job done and get the win.”
SAGU scored with a steal and layup just before halftime, extending their lead to 33-29.
With the second half underway after the break, both teams came out shooting and scored points within the first minute. However, La Verne was still down 35-31. After about two minutes, La Verne finally brought the score within two points through sophomore center Brandin Ziegler which made it a 37-35 game.
Senior guard Brian Adams tied the game up at 37 with his two free-throws just before Harvey lit up the crowd with an electrifying dunk that changed the game’s momentum. Finally, La Verne led for the first time all game, 39-37.
With 15 minutes left, the Leopards started to pull away through Matthews, who hit a three pointer which made it 44-39. Adams continued to rally and gave La Verne their biggest lead of the game, 49-42.
With six minutes left, La Verne led 60-53 until SAGU scored back-to-back points, bringing them within three. Then two minutes later, SAGU scored again, which cut the Leopards’ lead down to only one point.
Each team then made a jump shot, making the score 62-61. Then Adams stepped up to sink an absolute dagger in the Warriors’ hearts with his three-point shot with only 37 seconds to go.
From then on, it was La Verne hanging on to the ball, getting fouled, hitting their free throws, and milking the clock down to zero. However, right at the buzzer, SAGU hit a three-pointer that cut the Leopards’ win down to only four points, 69-65.
“That was a great team win and a much needed win against a good team, helping us gain some good momentum and morale as a team as we face a top team in our conference,” Adams said.
Senior guard Brad Yasukochi had five rebounds and thought this game was a great team win overall.
“Our objective was to find a way to win. Coming in we knew SAGU was a solid team and our guys and coaches really stepped up on practice plans and in practice,” Yasukochi said. “We are looking forward to learn from our mistakes this game and be better and hopefully keep this start of a win streak going.”
La Verne traveled to Pomona-Pitzer on Thursday night to face the 5-4 Sagehens before having a brief break. The Leopards’ next game will be hosting the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs at 2 p.m. Dec. 17 at Frantz Athletic Court.
Michael Hill can be reached at email@example.com.