The University of Redlands men's basketball team capped off the 2015 Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic by facing off against the University of Antelope Valley Pioneers on Saturday night. Despite cutting down the Pioneer lead to two points, the Bulldogs faltered in the long run in a 72-84 loss to the non-conference foe.
The teams battled back-and-forth early in the contest, as neither led by more than four points in the opening 14 minutes of action. Senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) kicked off the scoring for the Bulldogs, while sophomore point guard Kyle Husslein (Tauming, Guam) added a bucket two possessions later to keep the score tied at 4-4. Sophomore forward Reed Hopkins (Spokane, WA) entered the game, drew a foul, and drained two free-throws to keep his team within striking distance at 6-8.
A few minutes later, Hopkins gave the Bulldogs their second lead of the game by burying a triple to put them up 11-10 with 11:49 remaining in the opening frame.
However, the Pioneers strung together an 11-0 run that forced Redlands into a 15-27 deficit with less than five minutes to play in the opening half.
But the Bulldogs made the most of their opportunities from the charity stripe, as junior forward Ryan Borak (Yorba Linda, CA) and Husslein each drilled two free-throws. Freshman guard Joey Sponheim's (Redlands, CA) bucket cut the deficit to 23-34 at the end of the first half.
The Pioneers were electric from beyond the arc in the second frame, but the Bulldogs remained relentless and slowly chipped away at the lead. While trailing by 19 with 13:25 left to go, the Bulldogs strung together a 16-2 run that found them down only four points. O'Brien kicked off the run with a floating lay-up, before Hopkins knocked in a jumper. Sophomore guard Wyatt Pannabecker (Choteau, MT) checked into the game and contributed immediately with a triple, which was backed by another O'Brien bucket. Pannabecker remained energized by taking an inbounds pass and traveling coast-to-coast for two points. Junior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) followed suit by slipping his way into the lane for an off-balanced lay-up that was followed by a deep three from Sponheim to put the Bulldogs within four with 8:50 remaining in the second half.
Sponheim and S. Milligan remained aggressive for the Maroon and Gray, as they combined for four points on consecutive possessions to move the Bulldogs within two points.
Unfortunately for Redlands, the Pioneers remained hot from downtown, as they put themselves back up by 12 points with less than five minutes left in the game.
Despite late-game three-pointers from S. Milligan, Bjekovic, and Sponheim, the Bulldogs fell to the Pioneers by a final score of 72-84.
Sponheim led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points to go along with two assists. S. Milligan dropped 11 points while going 5-for-8 from the field.
O'Brien had a solid night with 10 points and seven rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Battisti and Hopkins each added nine points to the bench's 40-point effort.
Redlands (4-2) heads up north to face Whitman College (WA) on December 21 at 1 p.m. and then Lewis & Clark College (OR) on December 22 at 2 p.m.
Pomona-Pitzer vs. LIFE Pacific
In tonight's earlier game, the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges cruised by LIFE Pacific College in a 77-72 decision. Despite a late surge by the Warriors, Pomona-Pitzer led from the opening basket by Corbin Koch and expanded that advantage to as many as 21 points early in the second half. LIFE Pacific clawed its way back into the contest with effective three-point shooting by Blake Terry and Steven Murphy, but Pomona-Pitzer answered with key baskets by Gibson Farone-Collins and Daniel Rosenbaum. Down the stretch, it came down to free-throws. The Sagehens made it to the line 28 times but only converted half of them, which proved to be enough for the five-point win.
Farone-Collins led Pomona-Pitzer with 24 points and 16 rebounds, while Koch added 19 points and five boards. Hunter Lowry impressed off the bench with 14 points.
For LIFE, four of its starters scored in double digits, as Murphy and Sean Broke tallied 17 apiece and Terry and Troyon Butler finished with 13 and 12, respectively.
Overall, the Warriors shots slightly better with a 40% showing, which included an 11-for-23 effort from beyond the arc. Pomona-Pitzer converted 38.8% of its shots and 36.4% of its three-pointers.