The Chapman men’s basketball team hosted the University of La Verne Monday night at the Hutton Sports Center with sole possession of first place in conference on the line. Despite trailing early, the Panthers were able to battle their way back and earn a 76-67 victory.
Chapman (14-4, 8-2) was forced to play without its top scorer, freshman guard Cam Haslam (20.8 points per game), as he had to sit out of the game due to a hamstring injury.
“(Haslam) is a big part of all of our success,” said sophomore forward James Taylor. “But we have a really great overall team that’s filled with guys that are ready to step up. We knew that we all had to work extra hard to make up for his absence and I think we did a great job tonight.”
The Panthers had to rely on their veteran leadership, with junior guard Luke Hamlin and senior forward Davis Dragovich helping lead the team to victory in Haslam’s absence.
Hamlin posted a game-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Ten of those points came in the second half when Hamlin was able to get to the basket with ease, scoring almost at will.
Dragovich, the lone player that remains on the roster from the 2012-13 season, was just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Personally, I have really tried to be more of a vocal leader this year and I think the team has benefitted from that,” Dragovich said. “But honestly we may be a young team but we are very talented so we all really listen to each other and everybody keeps everybody in check.”
La Verne (8-10, 6-3) came out strong offensively in the first half, jumping out to a 27-18 lead. But Hamlin, who scored nine points in the last five minutes of the first half, led Chapman to take a 33-31 lead into halftime.
The start of the second half looked much like the start of the first half for La Verne, as it started on an 11-3 run to take a 41-35 lead. However, Chapman responded decisively, turning the tides in its favor as it went on a 14-0 run to take a 49-41 lead, which it would hold for the remainder of the game.
Sophomore forward Rob Nelsen was a catalyst for the Panthers, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the second half.
Chapman and La Verne were evenly matched for the most part, as was evident by the team statistics. Chapman shot 42.1 percent from the field compared to 41.9 for La Verne, and both teams had exactly 39 total rebounds, seven assists and 30 points in the paint.
“This win was huge for us not just because we gave our self a little bit of a separation at the top of league, but also because some other guys stepped up tonight which is going to the help their confidence down the stretch,” Dragovich said.
Chapman will travel to Pomona-Pitzer (8-9, 3-6) Saturday for a 5 p.m. game.