In an exciting display of tenacity and heart, the University of Redlands men's basketball team rallied back from 18 points down to defeat the visiting Leopards of the University of La Verne in Wednesday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) game in Currier Gym. The Bulldogs overcame a rough start to finally surpass the Leopards with 13:04 left in the game and finished strong with a 50-point showing in the second half that included crucial free-throws down the stretch.
Redlands struggled to find its rhythm in the first half, as La Verne raced out to a double-digit lead with an impressive 58.6% shooting effort that included a 5-for-7 performance from downtown. Trailing by a score of 16-34 at the 6:46-mark, the Maroon and Gray mustered a late spurt to make it a 12-point game at the halftime intermission. After sophomore forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) hit a pair of free-throws, first-year forward Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA) nabbed a steal to set up first-year forward Jordan Holden's (Anaheim, CA) and-one lay-up at the 5:12-mark. Landolf stood his ground in the post on the other end to draw the offensive foul, which he converted into two points at the charity stripe. Senior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) and sophomore guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) also chipped in points to breathe new life into the Bulldogs, as the teams retreated to the locker rooms, with La Verne leading 42-30.
Following an inspiring halftime speech by Head Coach Jim Ducey, Redlands retook the floor with a newfound sense of urgency and organization. The Bulldogs successfully put together a 19-6 run to finally take the lead at 49-48. Junior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) got things started with a fade-away jumper in traffic before Husslein pickpocketed the Leopards and went coast-to-coast for the lay-up. Senior guard Kyle Hamane (Pasadena, CA) kept things rolling when he found an open Sponheim for back-to-back trey-balls to make it 40-44 less than three minutes into the second half. After a pair of Menary free-throws, Redlands' tough defense forced the Leopards to cough up the ball on their ensuing possession, which led to Hamane's nothing-but-net jumper from the perimeter. The Bulldogs' next bucket came off of the hands of Husslein, who knocked down a three-pointer behind an assist and a screen by sophomore guard Jesse Grabow (San Ramon, CA). After another Leopard turnover, Berry pulled up for the swishing jumper to put the Bulldogs in front at 49-48 with about seven minutes to go.
Sponheim and Grabow each converted well-timed three-pointers to stretch Redlands' lead to four but La Verne quickly answered by tying it up at 55 apiece.
Nonetheless, Sponheim and Menary answered the call for the Bulldogs and carried the team to a 65-62 lead before Landolf tossed in a lay-up for the home team's 67-64 advantage at the 4:04-mark.
From here, the Maroon and Gray won the game at the charity stripe by converting all but one its 10 free-throws. Late in the contest, Sponheim also dished out an assist to a wide-open Menary in the paint for the icing on the cake.
Menary finished the night with a career-high 29 points, which included a 15-for-18 showing at the free-throw line. He also pulled in nine rebounds and registered three blocks in a stellar defensive effort. Sponheim added 18 points, while Husslein and Berry combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Redlands (5-9, 3-3 SCIAC) heads to Cal Lutheran University on Saturday, January 13, for a 2 p.m. tilt against the Kingsmen.