The Chapman men’s basketball team moved back into first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), with home victories over California Lutheran and La Verne Thursday and Saturday.
Chapman was able to move into first despite opening the week with a road loss at Redlands Tuesday.
“We’re getting more on track to playing at our full potential, and it’s coming at the perfect time,” said freshman guard Brian Watson.
On Tuesday, Chapman fell to Redlands 62-59 in a game that went down to the wire.
The Bulldogs (7-17, 4-11) upset the Panthers (20-4, 1-4) by dominating the boards, out rebounding Chapman 41-25 and controlling the paint on both sides of the court.
Coming into the game, the 22nd-ranked Panthers looked to bounce back from a blowout loss suffered at home to Whittier.
With a seven-day break between games, the Panthers had plenty of time to practice and prepare for the struggling Bulldogs, who had lost nine straight games. Despite the extra preparation, Redlands overwhelmed Chapman with its physicality and extra effort on the boards.
Averaging 49 percent from beyond the arc this season, the Panthers struggled from the 3-point range, shooting three-for-18 from downtown.
Yet even with the mistakes, Chapman had opportunities to tie the game in the closing moments. Down three with 22 seconds to go, the Panthers had multiple shots to send the game into overtime.
With conference playoff position on the line, the Chapman men’s basketball team came out firing Thursday night, crushing Cal Lu 86-70 and securing a spot in the conference postseason tournament.
The Panthers sought revenge after an early season loss to Cal Lu (17-6, 11-4) when the two teams met Thursday.
“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.
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.
Two nights after getting a much needed win against Cal Lu, Chapman destroyed visiting La Verne 80-41.
Despite the win against Cal Lu, the 22nd-ranked Panthers entered the night against the Leopards (9-15, 5-10) still trailing the Kingsmen for first place in conference standings.
However, with the win over La Verne and a Claremont-Mudd-Scripps victory over Cal Lu, the Panthers are now tied for first place heading into their final game of the season.
With their season winding down, the Panthers stressed the importance of playing tough defense and establishing offensive rhythm. Down 12-8 after five minutes of play, Chapman clicked into gear, going on a 39-2 run.
Chapman plays its final game of the regular season against Caltech (4-20, 3-12) at home Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and looks to secure first place in the conference. Also competing for first place, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (18-6, 11-4) plays La Verne and Cal Lu (17-6, 11-4) plays Occidental (11-13, 7-8) for the final game of the season.