Associate Sports Editor
The defense of the Stags was too much for the Leopards as they fell 56-48 in front of a crowd of 461 at Ted Ducey Gymnasium at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday.
With eight seconds remaining, another shot hit the rim and bounced harmlessly away from the hoop, another good look that did not go the Leopards way on a night in which La Verne finished 18-54 from the field.
It was tight throughout as the Leopards entered the locker room down 22-16. La Verne never fell behind by more than 10 points and minimized the deficit to as little as two with a free throw by junior forward Tyler Hoyt with 14:27 remaining in the second half.
“Both teams are great defensive teams and I know that CMS and us pride ourselves on forcing teams to take difficult shots,” head coach Richard Reed said.
The Leopards could not find success from long distance, shooting 5-15 on the night. The short-range shots never fell either and the only success came from the inside, led by junior forward Austin Napolitano who had a double-double with 10 points, many of which from down low, and 11 rebounds.
“They were really good at taking us out of what we wanted to do and they collapsed and you gotta hand it to them, they played great defense. Hopefully we see them in a few weeks,” Napolitano said.
“We were in a tough environment and we gave up too many rebounds. We battled the whole game, we executed what we needed to execute but we came up short,” Hoyt said.
The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s fourth leading scorer, junior guard Trevor Woodland, had an off night going 1-13 from the field, fitting the unfortunate theme of the evening.
“You know what, one player and one play doesn’t lose a game.” Reed said.
“On offense tonight for us there were a lot of guys that didn’t have it and it happens. It’s conference play, everyone knows everyone. He (Woodland) had good looks but they didn’t go down.”
“We have to credit their defense, they got us out of our offense and we were impatient,” Woodland said.
Beyond the loss, Reed was excited to be in the position that he was in and was very happy with the team.
“The big positive was that we had the opportunity to win another game. I am so proud of the way our players competed so hard, there are some guys who are hurt, sick and banged up and they still went out and competed,” Reed said.
The Leopards effectively shut down the Stags’ returning Second Team All-SCIAC player Joseph Anderson by limiting him to four points on 2-4 shooting and eight rebounds, and fouling out of the game with 1:14 left in the second half.
La Verne is still in third place in the SCIAC standings and a very good chance of advancing to the SCIAC tournament.
“I am very proud of those guys. There are three games left and we are in third place with a chance for a top four finish and we have plenty of reason to be excited,” Reed said.
La Verne fell to Pomona-Pitzer, 63-49, on Wednesday.
The Leopards were only 19-53 from the field and 6-9 from the charity stripe.
The Leopards look to end the season strong against Whittier and Redlands, beginning at Whittier at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
La Verne was 1-1 against the Poets last season and the Poets are currently coming off of a 57-53 win against Occidental.
If La Verne wins they will regain sole possession of third in the SCIAC standings.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.