LA VERNE, Calif. — Bailey Kurahashi made a pair of big threes late, the Leopards' press forced key turnovers, and the University of La Verne women's basketball team scored a thrilling 65-62 win in their SCIAC home opener over the Whitter College Poets Wednesday night.
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Kurahashi came through with her first three-pointer to get the Leopards within two points of Whittier's lead.
A pair of free throws from Uikilifi Ani tied the game at 52-52, but Whittier's Cali Cubel responded with a three of her own to put the Poets back up by three.
After Clarissa Perez knocked down a jumper to get La Verne back to within one, Kurahashi came up with the biggest shot of the game less than 30 seconds later, making another three to put the Leopards up 57-55 with five minutes to play.
Whittier tied the game 57-57 with a pair of free throws by Cubel, but Uikilifi Ani sank a free throw to give the Leopards the lead for good.
With 2:14 remaining in the game and Nyjeeiah Ganan at the line, the Leopards came through with five offensive rebounds to run the clock down to 1:18 before the Poets were able to stop the clock with a foul.
The Poets made a push late, forcing the Leopards into two turnovers, but the Leopards were able to hold on for their first win of the season.
Perez led all players with 23 points. Perez currently ranks second in the SCIAC with 20.2 points per game. The junior also grabbed five rebounds and four steals.
Ganan came off the bench to score nine points with three steals and three rebounds.
The Leopards' smothering press defense wore down the Poets late in the game. La Verne forced Whittier into six turnovers in the fourth quarter. The Leopards finished with 19 points off turnovers.
Ukilifi finished with a game-high 11 rebounds to go with six points. Kurahashi finished with seven points.
Teani White and Cubel both scored 13 points for the Poets.
Season Impact: The Leopards improve to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the SCIAC. Whittier drops to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
Next Game: The Leopards play next on Monday, December 18 against Ottawa (Ariz.). Due to construction, the Leopards home game will be played at Pomona-Pitzer's Rain Center.