The University of Redlands men's basketball team faced off against the Pioneers of Lewis & Clark College (OR) in Saturday's game of the Mission Inn Kickoff Classic in Santa Cruz. Despite closing in on a 13-point deficit late in the game, the Bulldogs' effort was just shy of the comeback, as they lost by a score of 62-66.
Redlands took advantage of multiple second-chance opportunities to quickly build a 10-4 lead by the 15-minute. Senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) accounted for four points on back-to-back tip-in plays.
However, the Pioneers answered back with 10-2 run to grab a 14-12 advantage with 11:32 to go in the first half.
But Bjekovic and sophomore guard Wyatt Pannabecker (Choteau, MT) teamed up for consecutive three-pointers to recover the Bulldogs' lead.
Nonetheless, Lewis & Clark also got hot from beyond the arc with a pair of treys, followed by a lay-up, to make it 22-18.
Over the next few possessions, Redlands looked to the offensive play of Bjekovic, junior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR), and sophomore forward Nate Battisti (Seattle, WA) to combine for nine points, resulting in a slight edge at 27-24 with 4:38 to play in the opening frame.
But the momentum shifted once again, as the Pioneers went off on a 12-0 run for a 36-27 advantage.
However, sophomore center Blake O'Brien's (Sammamish, WA) long ball cut the deficit to six as time expired for the end of the half.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Lewis & Clark kept things rolling in the second stanza, eventually earning a 13-point lead at the midway point of the period.
Refusing to go away, the Maroon and Gray initiated a valiant comeback, beginning with freshman guard Joey Sponheim's (Redlands, CA) basket with 9:18 left in the game. Redlands put together a 10-2 run to make it a three-point game, with sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) leading the charge with seven points during this spurt.
From here, Redlands did its best to take advantage of a fouling Pioneer team, with junior forward Ryan Borak (Yorba Linda, CA) and Bjekovic converting critical free-throws.
However, the Bulldogs' final possessions were not otherwise lucrative and they were forced to foul in the waning seconds, resulting in the four-point loss.
Bjekovic led the Maroon and Gray with 22 points on 7-for-18 shooting. He also added six rebounds and five assists.
O'Brien finished with 10 points, nine boards, and two blocks, while Husslein added nine points for the Bulldogs. Senior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) dished out five assists and pulled in six rebounds.
Redlands (1-1) returns home to the friendly confines of Currier Gym on Saturday, November 28, for a 2 p.m. showdown against Pacific University (OR).