Men’s basketball fights to pick up crucial game

Win over fifth-placed Whittier College bolsters Chapman’s playoff hopes

Senior guard Luke Selway fights a Poet defender to score a two points against Whittier Feb. 7. Chapman came back from a 15-point deficit, winning the game. Photos by Diano Pachote

Within the first 10 minutes of a crucial men’s basketball game Feb. 7, Chapman trailed Whittier College 22-7.

Before the game, Chapman (16-6, 9-4 in-conference) sat one game ahead of fifth-placed Whittier (9-13, 7-6). A loss would leave both teams tied in the standings, with just three games remaining in the regular season.

The nerve-wracking final stretch served to bolster the contention in the important game. After falling 15 points behind, the Panthers chipped away at the deficit, defeating Whittier 77-74.

A jolt of energy from its bench players was the catalyst for Chapman’s comeback, said assistant coach Dan Krikorian.

“It started with our bench,” Krikorian said.  “(They) deserve a lot of credit for bringing the energy, and it transferred to our guys in the second half.”

Senior guard Rob Nelsen drives to the lane in the first half against Whittier College Feb. 7.

That bench effort was led by junior guard Josh Mendoza, who scored 14 points in just 11 minutes.

Krikorian and senior guards Tyler Green, Luke Selway, and Rob Nelsen said the team is defined by its resiliency.

“We never back down,” Green said.

The game was the team’s best of this year, Krikorian said.

“We showed a ton of grittiness and resilience to come back from a 15-point deficit against a really good team,” he said.

For the seniors on the team, this is their last go-round at college basketball.

“Finishing strong is something us seniors really want to do,” Selway said. “(It’s) good that we’re playing well going into conference tournament, and I think we can make a run.”

Chapman has three games remaining, with its next one at home against the University of La Verne Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.

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