In a game that was close throughout, with neither team gaining an advantage of more than five points, the Leopards earned a 58-55 win Saturday against Cal Lutheran, a team they previously lost to by 25.
Senior forward Emily Carrillo grabbed an offensive rebound off of a missed free throw attempt with less than 30 seconds remaining to secure the victory in front of a crowd of 247 at Frantz Athletic Court.
“We played at Cal Lu with six hurt kids, that’s not an excuse, but our defense was outstanding, we made them work on offense and our intelligence won the game,” head coach Matt Rogers said.
The Leopards came away with a win against a physically larger and more athletic Cal Lutheran team.
“Their athleticism is better and we focused on their non-shooters and we forced them to shoot which made it easier to play defense being five on four. I don’t think their point guard made a shot all night,” Rogers said.
Being the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference leader in three-pointers with 160, it took a different style of play to win the game.
The Leopards were a mere 1-11 from beyond the arc in the second half.
“We got tired and we did a great job on defense. We were patient and wanted to attack and get inside and get to the foul line,” Rogers said.
Defense was the key in the game as La Verne was up 30-28 at halftime.
It was a much different story than the first meeting between the two teams, when the Regals led, 32-19, at the break in Thousand Oaks.
“Since we played them earlier and it wasn’t pretty we had to come out swinging and we really focused on being physical,” senior forward Emily Carrillo said.
La Verne brought the physicality as every time the ball was in the hands of All-SCIAC player Brianna Parker.
The Leopards swarmed to contest her and each outside shot taken by the Regals.
Senior guard Ashley Paul, a career 1,000-point scorer and a Second Team All-SCIAC pick from 2009, did not believe there was a single standout player on the night.
“It was a whole team effort, the bench helped us out and we executed well,” Paul said.
Despite the obvious size advantage for the Regals, the Leopards had more rebounds on the game, including the huge board by Carrillo that crushed the hopes of any Regal comeback.
“I wasn’t too worried that they would come back but I wasn’t satisfied. We had to battle for the boards until the end,” senior guard Mayra Dueñas said.
La Verne entered the contest in a three-way tie with Cal Lutheran and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for third place in the regular season SCIAC standings.
At night’s end the Leopards left the court with sole possession of third place with the victory and a 67-47 CMS loss to Occidental.
On Thursday night La Verne lost possession of third place in the SCIAC standings when it was defeated 78-69 by conference co-leader Occidental. The Leopards were led by Carillo with 24 points and seven rebounds.
La Verne and Occidental shot an identical 48 percent from the field, but they were unable to come back and get the much needed win.
The Leopards will face CMS at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Claremont. The winner of this game will regain sole possession of third place and increase their chances of making the SCIAC post season tournament.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.