La Verne forward Clarissa Holz tries to pass the ball to a nearby teammate while forward Melissa Johnson of Whittier attempts to block. The Poets outsmarted the Leopards, 74-71, on Feb. 5.
Despite coming in with a four-game winning streak, it was not a welcoming night for the La Verne women’s basketball team as it lost a heartbreaker against Whittier, 74-71, on Feb. 5 at Frantz Court.
La Verne was able to salvage the week, however, after pummeling Caltech 65-39 on Saturday.
The win keeps La Verne tied for first in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with Occidental. La Verne’s overall record is 16-4.
“Everyone in the second round is going to be better and stronger,” head coach Julie Kline said after the Whittier game. “They were good tonight.”
“We just played bad,” sophomore guard Ashley Paul said. “We didn’t have any intensity in the first half.”
Without senior forward Trenecca Jones, the Leopards found themselves behind most of the game against Whittier. Behind junior guard Tedra Clark, the Leopards came roaring back to narrow the game to 65-63 after a lay up by Clarissa Holz from an assist by Clark with 5:35 minutes left in the game.
Seconds later, Holz steal gave the Leopards the opportunity to tie the game. After a foul by Whittier, junior center Corinne Watkins went up to the foul line, making her first shot to put the score at 67-66.
But Watkins missed the second attempt and the Poets were able to extend their lead to 71-66 following a quick jumper by Tina Merlino.
Coming back down the court, Clark backed into a Whittier defender trying to head to the basket. But both players went down, and Clark reached for her leg and needed to be helped out by officials and trainers. She ended the game with 20 points.
The Leopards came within two again with a score of 72-70 and needed to convert two free throws. But junior guard Emily Carrillo could not convert both free throws, which led La Verne to foul Whittier’s Brittany Aranda with five seconds left.
Aranda converted both free throws.
La Verne got the ball again, but Paul’s tying three-pointer bounced off the rim and the Poets pulled away to win.
“If we were to execute and play defense in the first half we would of did better,” Kline said.
After the game, Kline stated she was still happy at their spirit of the team to keep fighting.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Kline said after the Whittier game.
La Verne started the game sluggish, trailing the Poets 14-4 after a three-pointer by the Poet’s Morgan Sabala.
Whittier’s lead extended to 12 points after a jumper by Ashley Vierra to make it 18-6.
“They came out and were hitting every shot,” Carrillo said. “We didn’t really execute what we went through all week.”
The Leopards would not go down without a fight, however, after a steal by Paul led to a wide open outside shot by freshman forward Jessica Schob to tie the game at 26-26.
But the Poets ran away again and led the rest of the game, after a pump-faked shot by Melissa Johnson ended the half, 39-30.
La Verne’s defense was not up to par, letting the Poets score almost at will in the first half. The Poets found ways to get to the painted area early in the game.
Turnovers also played a huge factor in the game, as both teams could not control their errors. Whittier ended the night with 23 turnovers, while La Verne registered 19.
Carrillo stated that rebounding was a big factor in the game. Whittier out rebound the Leopards 31 to 27.
Paul scored 17 points against Whittier, while Watkins came off the bench to add 11 points.
Also, with the injury to Clark, the Leopards are now down four players that played in the rotation. But Paul does not see it as a negative.
“This will be a bounced back for the next five games,” Paul said after the Whittier game. “ It effects us but we have to just step it up.”
Likewise, neither does Carrillo.
“At this point of the season, we can’t really think about who we don’t have, Carrillo said.” “We learned how to play with what we have and how to play.”
On Saturday, the Leopards rebounded with a win against Caltech. The Leopards were too much for the Beavers to handle. Carrillo attributed the win to executing their offensive plays.
“In the past, we kind of started rushing things,” Carrillo said. “We needed to work at our own pace and run our offense.”
The Leopards shot 52.1 percent of the night. Carrillo registered a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Paul added 15 points and seven rebounds.
With the season winding down to just three games, Kline believes her team will be okay following the loss.
“We have one choice to make and we going to continue moving forward,” Kline said. “We will continue to work on both ends of the floor and what we been doing all year.”
La Verne will play Redlands Saturday for the second time this season. Tip off starts at 5:00 p.m. at Frantz Athletic Courts.
Jonathan Smith can be reached at email@example.com.