LA VERNE, Calif. — A furious late rally fell short for the La Verne men's basketball team as it fell to Whittier 88-85 on Tuesday night at Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion.
With the loss, La Verne finishes regular season with a 10-6 record (16-9 overall) in SCIAC play and earns the No. 3 seed in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament. The Leopards will travel to Cal Lutheran (12-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. for the semifinal. First seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (13-3) will host Pomona-Pitzer (10-6) in the other semifinal.
The Leopards looked sluggish at both ends of the court for most of the night before jolting into gear at the last minute—literally.
The Leopards trailed by nine points with 48 seconds left in the game but Khaneal Mason got a clean steal with 35 seconds left and went all the way for a layup to cut the lead to 85-79. The Poets made one of two free throws on the ensuing possession and Hakim Arnold scored on a putback attempt on La Verne's next posession to make it a five-point game with 12 seconds to go.
Louis Kurihara then sank both free throws for the Poets but the Leopards rushed down the court to set up Arnold, who hit a floater with five seconds left. Then on the ensuing inbounds play, Whittier's Conner Longmire sent a baseball pass down the court to a wide-open Eric Davis but overshot him and Mason ended up with the ball. Mason drove it all the way in for a layup and was fouled, getting the Leopards within 88-85 with 1.1 seconds to go. Mason missed the free throw, however, and the clock expired on the Leopards.
Arnold and Anthony White each scored 24 points to lead La Verne. Arnold also grabbed nine rebounds and White hauled in six.
Connor Head contributed 17 points off the bench.
Jake Moore led Whittier with 20 points, Kurihara finished with 18 and the Poets had three other players reach double digits in scoring. Longmire chipped in 17 off the bench, Nick Pothoff scored 12 and Chris Kapano had 10 points in 12 minutes.
Before the game, the Leopards honored the careers of their seven graduating seniors with a pregame ceremony. Arnold; Mason; White; Kendall McClain; Cruz Mertens; Jordan Stokes; and Tony Warwick were presented with gifts from the coaching staff and were accompanied by their friends and family.
The Leopards will have two days to prepare for the Kingsmen. The teams split the season series, with La Verne winning 93-91 on Jan. 19 and Cal Lutheran claiming a 113-87 win last Saturday.