The Chapman men’s basketball team saw its season come to a close on March 3, traveling to Whitman College and losing 91-84 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship.
Assistant Coach Dan Krikorian spoke to the team’s preparation going into the game.
“As a staff, we’ve tried to find the balance between keeping the guys loose but focused,” Krikorian said. “We want them to really enjoy the experience while at the same time prepare to win against two great teams. We have some great leaders who have helped us do that all year long.”
The Panthers (20-7, 12-4) found themselves closely matched with the Missionaries in the first half, which finished 40-40. However, Whitman (23-4, 14-2) extended to a commanding 10-point lead in the second half, starting with a 4-point play from junior guard Christian McDonald.
A huge factor in the game was the Panthers’ struggle to keep hold of the ball in the face of tough, full-court press defense from Whitman, turning the ball over 20 times, and allowing 28 points off the turnovers.
Freshman guard Cam Haslam, who scored 21 points on the night, said the struggle to put together consecutive defensive stops was frustrating.
“I think the most frustrating part for us as a team was just our struggle to string together consecutive stops on defense,” Haslam said. “They did a nice job of putting pressure on us and it took us a while to adjust to it.”
While the Panthers shot 56.9 percent from the field, and sophomore forward James Taylor added 23 points to Haslam’s 21, their turnovers took away from the benefit of their shooting efficiency.
“I think we could make excuses about how we had to travel or that they got to play in their home gym, but when it comes down to it, all that doesn’t matter when the game starts,” Haslam said.
“They played a great game tonight. I’m proud of our guys and how we battled tonight – we fought till the last second and gave them all we had.”
Despite the season-ending loss, the Panthers will only lose two seniors to graduation in senior forwards Mike Atwater and Davis Dragovich, giving Chapman a legitimate opportunity to improve next year.
“(I’m) very optimistic we’re going to have to work hard in the offseason, but we have a ton of potential and I know all the guys want to get back here again next year,” Haslam said.