La Verne guard John Legget and Redlands guard Patrick Coffey (No. 3) race for the possession of the ball in the first half of Saturday’s game at Frantz Athletic Court. The Bulldogs routed the Leopards, 61-48. La Verne will play at Occidental at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, then close out the season at home against Pomona-Pitzer at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Two late comeback attempts ended on sour notes for the men’s basketball team this week, as the Leopards fell to the Redlands Bulldogs, 61-48, on Saturday at home, then came up short, 64-61, to the Stags at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Wednesday.
Down by 18 with 15 minutes left against CMS, the Leopards rallied around their 3-point shooters to come within three points with 15 seconds left.
But senior forward Kyle Luhnow’s buzzer-beater 3-point attempt could not connect.
“It was disappointing,” Luhnow said. “I wish I could have had a better shot at the end.”
Luhnow, with 14 points and seven boards, and junior guard Matt Heyd, with 10 points led the Leopards’ offensive attack.
Along with junior forward Pierre Baker and junior guard Sam Adams, the Leopards shot 56.3 percent in the second half.
La Verne’s record drops to 2-10 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play and 6-17 overall.
“We’ve been playing catch-up this whole season, and a lot of times it’s too late,” Luhnow said.
The loss to Redlands followed another dismal start in the first half for the Leopards.
“We just came out slow and we went down by 20,” junior guard Billy Nicolini said. “We had no energy on the court but we changed that in the second half. Just couldn’t pull it out.”
“I have to commend Redlands,” head coach Richard Reed said. “They came out and were very patient against our changing defenses.”
Down by 15 at the half, La Verne intensified its attack early in the second half.
La Verne decreased its deficit to single digits to make it 34-25 after a fade away jumper by freshman center Vince Bauer with 15 minutes left in the half.
Minutes later, La Verne was able to come to within eight, making it 41-33, following senior guard Danny Vasquez’s open 3-pointer that rattled in the rim.
Following a miss by Redlands, the Leopards had another opportunity to decrease the deficit, but Luhnow’s 3-pointer rattled in and out.
Vasquez’s steal gave way to a breakaway, but he was fouled hard as he attempted a layup to the basket.
Vasquez made his first free throw, but missed the second one to bring the score to 44-36.
Two minutes later, Baker came up with a huge block against Redland’s Andrew Mills, which led to a 3-pointer by freshman guard Jonathan Bastos to make it 44-39.
The Leopards managed to come within five again after a contested 3-pointer by Luhnow to make it 47-42.
But that was the closest La Verne was able to bring it.
Redlands was able to go on a 12 point run, capping it with Patrick Coffey’s free throw attempt.
Coffey led all scorers with 17 points.
La Verne’s efforts to orchestrate another run were sidelined due to turnovers after senior guard Brennan Hallinan lost the ball to Coffey.
The turnover led to a Redlands fast break where Coffey was fouled going for the layup, making the score 61-45.
Coffey converted both the shot and the free throw.
Time was also a factor in the Leopards’ loss.
The Bulldogs ran their sets almost to perfection, biting a lot of time off the clock.
Reed said that the team played a good 20 minutes during the second half, but has to play a complete game in order to win.
“We have an extremely young team that’s trying to understand what it takes to compete at the collegiate level,” Reed said. “The game is only 40 minutes but this was 20 minutes.”
Down by two early in the first half, Bauer made his second free throw attempt to come within one, making 5-4.
But that would be the last point La Verne would score in the next 12 minutes as Redlands went on a 21-point run after a contested 3-pointer by Stephen Call.
Bauer, along with Nicolini, sparked the offense of La Verne in the first half as the team was able to decrease the deficit.
Luhnow led the Leopards with 13 points and four rebounds.
Coming off the bench, Nicolini registered 11 points, including two 3-pointers.
Bauer added 12 points for the team.
The Leopards shot 18.2 percent in the first half, shooting just 4-for-22 from the field.
Many of the La Verne shots looked good, but they were not able to connect.
“We started a little slow,” Baker said. “We weren’t taking the shots we needed to take.”
Reed said that his team did not have the fire it needed to compete in the first half.
“We came out emotionally flat,” Reed said. “We weren’t making shots and attacking the offensive glass.”
The Leopards were also not able to take care of their mistakes, giving up 20 turnovers to the Bulldogs.
“We play at the level of our opponents and it’s hard to get on top from behind,” Adams said.
Redlands executed its sets well, both on offense and defense.
This allowed the Bulldogs to get to the free throw line with regularity.
“I feel that the zone made it difficult to get any middle penetration,” Baker said. “You have to play perfect coming from behind.”
With another loss on their record, the Leopards are looking for ways to keep their heads up.
Reed said that the team will stay true to its goals, despite the season being almost over.
“Our goal has always been to continue to get better,” Reed said. “That’ll never change, whether we have three games or 25 games left.”
“We want to try to win these games that we have left to get momentum for next year,” Baker said.
La Verne next takes on the Occidental Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Eagle Rock.
In the Leopards’ final game of the season, they will host the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Frantz Athletic Court.
Jonathan Smith can be reached at email@example.com.