Grady Lee Thomas
Although the season came to a close with the loss, there is reason to be optimistic about what the future holds for the Leopards in the years to come.
The men’s basketball team lost in the semifinals of the 2011 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 68-62.
The loss also marks the programs first trip to the SCIAC tournament and thier first time making a Division III tournament since 1993.
“From the beginning of the season to now, we made a lot of progress. We have a lot of juniors that helped get us off to a great start this season,” assistant coach Chris Hobson said.
“We were excited about tonight’s game, because we have not been in this position recently,” Hobson said. “It took us a while to get into our rhythm and flow of what we wanted to do, but we responded well in the second half and played very hard.”
Despite stumbling from the gates and shooting a poor 28 percent from the field in the first half, the Leopards were able to overcome a 37-26 halftime deficit while rallying around the boisterous La Verne crowd.
The energy at CMS was electric, as numerous ULV students made the trip, painted faces and all, in order to support the Leopard men’s squad.
The crowd helped La Verne cut the CMS lead to 64-60 with less than two minutes left in regulation, before running out of time.
“The atmosphere was great, a lot of people from campus came down to watch the game and they kept us alive throughout,” junior guard John Leggett said.
“We haven’t made the tournament in a couple years, so it is a step forward for our program,” Leggett added. “Now that we got a little taste of the postseason, we know we cannot give away games during the regular season, because every game counts.”
“It is kind of disappointing to end our season this way. We wanted to let it all hang out tonight and I feel we did that,” junior guard Trevor Woodland said.
“We let them get up by too much in the first half and we couldn’t come back,” Woodland added. “You cannot let a good team get up that much. I’m excited for next season. We will be more experienced next season.”
The Leopards finished the season 13-13 overall (8-6 SCIAC), showing vital signs to a program that has not had much success.
Next season the Leopards will be led by a hungry group of seniors that are experienced and are eager to reach the postseason for a second straight season.
“We haven’t had a winning season in a long time,” junior forward Sam Adams said. “I believe it came this year because our team made sacrifices over the summer, playing ball and building chemistry with each other.”
“CMS is a team that we aspire to be like. They grind you out for all 40 minutes and finish teams,” Adams said. “I’m looking forward to next season because our coach does a great job of breaking things down and helping us improve on areas that need work during the off-season.”
“The La Verne fans brought more energy tonight than they had all season long,” ULV alumnus Chris Weedon said. “Even when we got a little behind, the crowd was never out of it.”
“The team was able to rally around us until the end of the game, unfortunately they came up short, but next year is a new year,” Weedon added.
Grady Lee Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.