Photo by Chris Mora
CLAREMONT, Calif. — After dropping its last two conference games after a 5-1 start, the La Verne men's basketball team needed a big win at Pomona-Pitzer on Tuesday night to stem the tide and keep pace in the race for a spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
The Leopards got just that.
After trailing for most of the game, La Verne made one big run in the second half to force overtime and Connor Head sank the go-ahead free throws with 29 seconds left to lift the Leopards to a 105-104 victory over the Sagehens at Voelkel Gymnasium.
The Sagehens had a couple of decent looks at the basket as time expired but could not convert. Daniel Rosenbaum missed a hook, grabbed his own miss and handed it off to Micah Elan but his jumper just rimmed out.
"The first thing that was going through my mind was, 'I think we are allergic to rebounding,'" La Verne coach Richard Reed said of the last sequence. "But you don't win or lose a game on one play, it's a series of small things. Sometimes shots go down and sometimes they don't. It didn't go down for them at the end, but credit to Pomona. They played a great game."
The Leopards (12-6, 6-3 SCIAC) trailed by eight points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation but unleashed an 11-2 run keyed by a pair of 3-pointers and a layup by Anthony White to take a 92-91 lead with 1:36 left in the second half. Both sides missed a couple of key free throws down the stretch and with La Verne leading 94-92, Rosenbaum hit an off-balance layup with two seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Neither team was able to pull away in the extra period. With 30 seconds left, Rosenbaum hit a layup to give the Sagehens (10-8, 6-3) a 104-103 lead and was fouled on the play but could not complete the 3-point play. Rosenbaum then fouled Head on the ensuing possession to set up the game-winning free throws.
"We just kept battling," Reed said. "They were kicking our tails on the boards but we settled down and started taking smarter shots. They attacked us inside and got to the foul line early but we just made enough plays at the end. I'm proud of our effort. Coming here on the road and stealing one after the week we had, we'll take it."
Seven different Leopards reached double digits in scoring, including all five starters. White led the way with 21 points, Hakim Arnold followed with 18 and Cruz Mertens had 15 off the bench. Jordan Stokes chipped in 12, Head finished with 11 and Khaneal Mason ended with 10. Kendall McClain had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.
"As I've said before, I feel like we've got 10 guys that can start and eight guys that can drop 20 in any given game," Reed said of his offense. "So when we play unselfishly and the ball moves, we got a chance to be pretty good. The thing that was causing us problems early was the ball was sticking in certain situations and we were working too hard when we didn't have to."
Pomona-Pitzer' Rosenbaum turned in a monster performance in a losing effort, leading all players with 36 points and 18 rebounds. James Kelbert recorded 25 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steal off the bench and Corbin Koch finished with 20 points.
The Leopards return to action on Thursday night at Occidental.