The Chapman men’s basketball team came away with an all-important conference victory over second-place Whittier College on Wednesday night, boosting the team’s conference title chances. The Panthers were bolstered by the return of their leading scorer, freshman guard Cam Haslam, who helped the team to a 77-75 victory.
The Panthers’ (15-5, 9-3) win solidifies their top spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, as they now stand a firm two games above the second-place Poets (12-9, 7-5) with only four games left in the regular season schedule.
“That win was huge for us,” said Haslam. “Whittier was second in league and after coming out last game lacking energy, it was awesome to see us bounce back last night playing so aggressively.”
Haslam had a game-high 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the field, but it was Chapman’s team performance that provided the edge. Four of Chapman’s starters finished with double-digit points.
Ultimately, it was the difference in second-chance points that was the deciding factor for the Panthers, as they were able to score 24 points compared to Whittier’s 10 points from second chances.
Haslam said he was happy to be back in the lineup after being sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“I think I’m back in form, but I still need to focus on taking care of my body and keep working hard on treatment,” Haslam said.
With the help of Haslam and sophomore forward James Taylor, who scored 14 second-half points, the Panthers were able to jump out to a 12-point lead in the second half, which they were able to hold onto, despite a late push from Whittier.
The Panthers will be able to determine their own playoff destiny, something Haslam said will not distract from the team’s game-to-game focus.
“Right now we’re just trying to focus on one game and one practice at a time, trying to improve each day,” he said.
The Panthers will face off against the third-place University of Redlands at 2 p.m. on Saturday.