Trevor Woodland sets the tone with 19 points.
The men’s basketball team improved to 7-14 after defeating the Whittier Poets, 79-71, on Wednesday night.
This comes after having dropped three of the last four games.
The Leopards started off stiff, going scoreless the first four minutes of the game and giving up four turnovers in three minutes, but they pushed through and took a nine point lead going into halftime.
The second half belonged to the Leopards, not letting the Poets get any closer than four points.
“We brought it in the second half, compared to the last time we played them,” said John Leggett Jr., a sophomore guard.
Last time these two teams faced off, the Leopards fell, 81-67, on Jan. 16 in Whittier.
La Verne stepped up their defense with three blocks and four steals. Two of the blocks coming from the hands of sophomore guard Jonathan Bastos.
“I was just trying to get a stop and not let them score,” Bastos said.
“I’m just doing my job,” he added.
Team work and good passing led to easy lay-ups for the Leopards.
“Once Trevor Woodland and the guards get going, we’re tough to beat,” said Austin Napolitano, a sophomore center.
La Verne shot a combined 44 percent from the field which propelled the team toward a much needed victory.
“This win means a lot. It’s big,” said Tyler Hoyt, a sophomore forward.
“It gets us back in the groove. It feels good to be winning,” he added.
Woodland paced the Leopards with a game high 19 points and three rebounds. On the season, Woodland is averaging 10.9 points per game.
Napolitano chipped in with an all around solid performance with 11 points, eight rebounds and one assist.
Leading the way for Whittier was DaMon Perry Jr. with 14 points and seven boards.
As a team, the Poets shot 49 percent but a meager 20 percent from behind the arc.
While the Leopards shot a respectable 33 percent from three-point territory.
The Leopards had lost their last three games, all on the road, and they were glad to finally get to play a home game, where their record is above .500, 6-4.
La Verne has not had much success on the road, posting a record of just 1-10.
“After a lot of road games, it’s nice to be home and get a win,” Napolitano said.
The team hopes to end the season on a positive note, by winning their last four games, and increasing their chances of making the postseason.
La Verne is currently tied with Whittier for sixth place in the SCIAC, both have a conference record of 3-7.
January was a tough month for La Verne. The Leopards lost six out of seven during one stretch that spilled over into February.
“After fighting some tough battles, it’s good to get some momentum going into the last four games of the year,” Bastos said.
La Verne is trailing an impressive 9-1 conference record from first place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The Leopards hope to keep this momentum going when they play Claremont at 7:30 p.m.on Saturday at the Frantz Athletic Court.
The remaining schedule for the Leopards features conference foes Occidental, Caltech and Redlands.
Elsie Ramos can be reached at email@example.com.