With the season on the line, the Chapman men’s basketball team came out firing Thursday night, crushing Cal Lutheran 86-70, and securing a spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) postseason tournament.
The Panthers (19-4, 10-4) came into the game on the heels of Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss to Redlands where they missed multiple shots to send the game into overtime. With two games left before the league postseason tournament, the Panthers brought everything they had against the conference-leading Kingsmen (17-5, 11-3).
“Coach didn’t need to say anything, we were ready to play from the start,” said senior guard Colin Zavrsnick. “They were the team that broke our undefeated season and we knew we had to come ready.”
During their previous two losses, the Panthers struggled to get their offense flowing, resulting in forced shots and bad possessions. Learning from their mistakes, the Panthers were locked in against the Kingsmen, shooting 54 percent from the field and 58 percent from beyond the arc.
Chapman established its offense early on, getting into a rhythm that allowed Zavrsnick to get the shots he needed throughout the game. Zavrsnick led the Panthers with 20 points and hit four 3-pointers as Chapman controlled the tempo the entire game.
A large part of their success came from the Panthers’ ability to rebound the ball and get high percentage shots, something they struggled with the last two games.
On top of the win, that tied Chapman with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for second place in league standings, the night also recognized a historic performance from senior guard Garrett James. James had 18 points and four assists on the night, earning his 127th assist of the season in the first half—Chapman’s single-season Division III record.
“It’s a really cool achievement to have but I honestly don’t think about it too much,” James said. “I always try to go out and get assists but I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
For Zavrsnick, playing alongside the school’s single-season assists leader has its perks.
“It makes playing a lot easier because all Taylor (Hamasaki) and I have to do is find an open spot and we know Garret will find us,” he said.
Chapman hosts La Verne 4 p.m. Saturday as the Panthers fight for home court advantage in the SCIAC tournament.