The La Verne men’s basketball team closed out the season with a loss against the Whittier Poets, 87-70, Tuesday evening at the Frantz Athletic Court.
The La Verne Leopards finished their season with a 4-12 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record, and a 7-17 overall record.
With the tip-off in Whittier’s favor, the Leopards scored first with senior guard Brad Yasukochi, making both free throws after a foul. Early in the game the Leopards saw stiff competition with both teams trading basket for basket.
Six minutes into the game, the Poets began to build a lead over the Leopards. The Poets’ defense held strong and repelled Leopards’ offense, leading to the Leopards’ stalling behind the Poets’ scorewise.
“They went on a run scoring good points, they had some good players,” Yasukochi said. “We just couldn’t get enough stops to win.”
As the game continued, the Poets’ lead over the Leopards grew larger. At the end of the first half, the Poets had a 25-point lead over the Leopards, 52-27.
The Leopards returned from the break with a hunger to win on their senior night. The beginning of the second half saw the teams trading baskets however, the gap between the teams’ scores refused to narrow.
With 13 minutes left, the Leopards begin to chip away at the Poets’ lead. Yasukochi intercepted a pass and quickly scored a basket. Poets’ junior guard Keith Stewart, followed Yasukochi with a 3-point shot. The score gap narrowed down to a 17-point gap halfway through the second half.
Offensively, the Leopard worked hard to try and catch up to the Poets. Yasukochi led the team in points with 17. Sophomore guard Kyler Harvey and senior guard Brian Adams, were right behind with 16 points and 15 points, respectively.
The last 10 minutes of the game were intense. The crowd booed and jeered at the opposing team and at the referees. At one point, head coach Richard Reed got up and yelled at the referees about what appeared to be confusion about a decision among the referees.
The last half saw both teams make impressive plays. The last five minutes we saw three turnovers with Yasukochi and junior guard Jonas Holt, stealing the ball from the Poets. Yasukochi shined in the second half, he made most of his points then and also the most on the court in that half.
However, the Poets’ point advantage and ability to respond to Leopards making shots lead to defeating La Verne on their senior night.
“The game was a lot of mixed feeling being my last game as a Leo,” Adams said. “We came up short to a tough Whittier team with a lot of talent but it was a great season overall, loved every moment of it.”
Adams is one of the players that were honored at senior night. The seniors honored that night were Adams, Yasukochi, Alex Blanco, Paul Antonis and Austin Rapp.
“I wouldn’t have done (this season) with anybody else,” Yasukochi said. “I was up and down and up and down, but it was beautiful, because no matter what, we stuck through it all.”
Reed was also honored for becoming the University’s all-time leader in wins for men’s basketball, who won his 117th win last week.
“We’re so close to getting over that hump. I feel like I let our players down,” Reed said. “But we keep working. Thank God we had a 25-game season to be able to look at that (and say) ‘here we go’.”
After a rocky season, the Leopards are hopeful for success next season.
“I hope we can improve off of what we accomplished this year,” freshman guard Tyler Matthews said. “I wish the seniors to have a good career in whatever they pursue after basketball.”
Kael Matias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.