Matt Gutierrez Dalrymple
The La Verne women’s basketball team took on Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in an intense conference battle where they held onto their undefeated Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record by knocking off the Athenas, 77-67, Feb. 1 at the Frantz Athletic Court.
Both teams came out ready to play and kept it a close game, going shot for shot and ending the first quarter with the Leopards on top by four, 22-18. However, the Athenas would not take that lightly and came back firing to gain a lead change halfway through the second quarter and finished out the rest of the half with a one-point lead, 36-35.
“They have to understand we’re the hunted,” head coach Jason Pruitt said. “We’re not the hunters anymore. Once they get into that mindset that we have to come out and play the championship game every night, then we’ll be fine.”
A halftime motivation speech seemed to work as it was a back-and-forth battle through the third quarter until La Verne sophomore guard Marissa Howell drained three of her six attempted three-pointers in that quarter. That allowed the Leopards to open the gap and take back over with a seven-point lead to head into the fourth quarter, 57-50.
Things began to heat up as both teams were battling hard, and the game was coming to an end. Things even escalated when a player from the Leopards was tripped on a screenplay and as the whistles were being drawn to call time on the play. The game got chaotic between some of the players on the court after some of the fallen Leopards teammates came to back her up and got in the faces of the Athenas players, who they believed shoved their player. The game halted as the officials began to discuss what had transpired and agreed upon a reasonable outcome for the scuffle.
After about five minutes of discussion, the officials decided that La Verne’s senior guard Tamia Brown would be ejected from the game and walked off the court back into the locker room. However, that did not stop the Leopards from putting on a show and hanging onto their lead to defeat the Athenas.
“We came back in the second half and grinded out the win,” assistant coach Clarissa Perez said. “We raised our efforts. It was a good job by the girls who came back in as a collective group, and they worked hard and were able to pursue the win.”
Graduate student guard Jazzlyn Johnson was also satisfied with the comeback win.
“I think the key to our success was just not going too high, not going too low, staying nice and steady,” Johnson said. “I think the first half we were kind of not controlling that much, but the second half we found our rhythm and saw what worked for us and just kept doing it.”
Sophomore guard Crystal Menjivar said that teamwork seemed to be the best solution for the Leopards.
“All the energy, I feel like that’s what helps the effort,” Menjivar said. “We just gotta pick each other up, and that’s where our effort comes from.”
The Leopards traveled to the Harold Hutton Sports Center to face the Chapman Panthers in a doubleheader with the men’s basketball team Feb. 4, coming out on top, 78-64.
They hit the road again Wednesday to beat Cal Lutheran, 66-53, to extend their conference record to 13-0.
Next up, the Leopards host Pomona-Pitzer at 2 p.m. Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court.
Matt Gutierrez Dalrymple can be reached at email@example.com.