The Leopards celebrated senior night for their lone senior Mychal Thomas on Tuesday at Frantz Athletic Court against Redlands, but unfortunately due to a lack of energy, the Leopards fell short 57-46.
Thomas was honored in front of a crowd of 528 and was escorted by his father Darryl, his mother Rosalie and his younger sister Jazmine to receive an engraved plaque.
Thomas will graduate with a business administration degree in the spring, but his real after-college dreams are to continue playing basketball wherever he can.
“This isn’t the last of me,” Thomas said.
The Leopards and Bulldogs faced off in January for the first time, resulting in a win for La Verne, 74-63.
Redlands controlled the ball from the beginning and at the half led 30-14, but junior center Alex Wolpe put La Verne on the board first, giving them the only lead of the game.
Redlands senior guard Patrick Keating’s lay-up was good, which set the stage for domination. Five minutes into the first half, Redlands led 11-4.
Then La Verne junior point guard John Leggett followed with a lay-up, cutting the lead to 11-6.
Both Leggett and junior guard Jonathan Bastos caused trouble for Redlands with their steals and rebounds on the defensive end.
A few turnovers by both teams drew fresh legs from the bench, and Redlands sophomore guard Brian Kuklok scored a three-pointer to make the game 26-12.
La Verne sophomore forward Vince Bauer capitalized as well with a field goal assisted by Thomas.
A Leopard foul sent Kuklok to the free throw line with 59 seconds left in the first half where he sank both, ending the half with Redlands leading by 16 points.
“We just needed to have energy, we needed to pick up the momentum,” La Verne junior forward Austin Napolitano said.
The Leopards started the second half strong with Napolitano putting the first points on the board off an assist from junior guard Trevor Woodland.
Redlands returned with a jumper only to foul La Verne sophomore point guard Jake Veith, sending him to the charity stripe, where he sank one of his shots.
La Verne began to lose their strong start and it was evident the Leopards lacked the energy they hoped to gain back in the second half.
Redlands went on a 6-0 run with 11:24 left on the clock until a foul on Wolpe sent him to the free-throw line, where he made one of his shots, making the score 46-21.
In their last attempts to cut down the Bulldogs’ lead, the Leopards picked up their energy for the last 11 minutes of the game.
Bastos started it off with a three pointer off an assist by Veith, a steal by Wolpe and a defensive rebound to set Veith up for the three.
Redlands sophomore guard Tristan Kirk ended La Verne’s 6-0 run with a field goal of his own, but Woodland immediately followed with a basket from downtown off an assist from Veith as the shot clock expired.
La Verne’s final push came with 2:56 left when they went on a 6-0 run, but Redlands came back with a shot by Matt Dietrich, sealing the game for the Bulldogs 57-46.
“The comeback late was big for us,” Napolitano said.
“But we just didn’t click today.”
“We didn’t bring energy to start and that affected us the rest of the game,” La Verne junior forward Sam Adams said.
Woodland led his team with seven points and two assists.
La Verne finished 18-48 from the field with 27 rebounds while Redlands finished 23-45 from the field with 33 rebounds.
The Leopards are preparing for the SCIAC postseason tournament this weekend, where they hope to come out stronger and with more energy.
“Yeah, we’re ready. It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the energy,” Woodland said.
The SCIAC postseason tournament begins for the Leopards at 7:30 p.m. today at Ducey Gymnasium in Claremont against Claremont Mudd-Scripps.
If La Verne advances, they play at 7 p.m. Saturday for the conference championship against either Cal Lutheran or Redlands.
Krista Franceschini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.