Men’s Basketball Unable to Upset Chapman at Buzzer

by | Feb 2, 2016 | Sports

Chapman 6261 Redlands

In a game of twist, turns, and lead changes, the Redlands men’s basketball team took the SCIAC-leading Panthers right down to the wire. The Bulldogs, who came into the game as a middle-of-the-pack team in the standings, jumped out to a large lead to start the game, found themselves down at halftime. They came back only to see their chance of pulling out the win fade away with a missed shot at the final buzzer.

Redlands started out the game looking inspired to take down the top team, scoring a barrage of points in the first few minutes to take a commanding 10-2 lead over Chapman. Senior forward Al Bjekovic lead the early charge for the Bulldogs, scoring seven of the team’s first twelve points. Three point shots from center Shawn James, a senior, and freshman guard Joey Sponheim put Redlands up by as much as eleven less than halfway through the first half.

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However, Chapman didn’t stay far back forever, and showed the determination and skill that got them to the top spot in the conference. After being down 20-9, the Panthers went on a 15-4 run to knot the score at 24 apiece, and subsequently took the lead after James Taylor dropped in a layup to make it 26-24. Though Redlands soon tied it with a pair of free throws, Chapman was able to squeak out one more basket before the half ended, and went into the locker room at halftime with a 28-26 lead over the Bulldogs.

A close first half was trumped by an even more entertaining second: the first lead of five or more points didn’t occur until ⅔ of the half had passed. Bjekovic scored eight points in that span to keep the Bulldogs close, and was helped by James and Sponheim, who combined for 7.

Though it was close for that stretch of play, Chapman soon started to pull away from the Bulldogs, eventually getting up by nine points with just under three minutes to go, placing an enormous amount of pressure on Redlands to perform. Junior guard Sean Milligan knocked down three consecutive free throws, and Bjekovic made a pair to keep Redlands within comeback range.

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A crucial shot made by Sponheim and a layup by Bjekovic helped the Bulldogs keep pace with Chapman, but the Panthers kept striking back as they tried to shut the door on a comeback. However, a jump shot sunken by sophomore forward Reed Hopkins and a three pointer made by sophomore center Blake O’Brien had the Bulldog supporters at Currier Gym on their feet, as the shot from downtown cut the Chapman’s lead to a single point with 30 seconds left on the game clock. The intentional fouling process worked perfectly for the Bulldogs, who quickly got the defensive rebound after Panther Ben Cohen was unable to make either of his free throws. After a timeout, the Bulldogs had a chance to sink in the game winner and sink the Panthers to second place in the conference. But missed shots by both O’Brien and Sponheim ended the hopes of a victory.

The loss was Redlands’ second in a row, and ninth in their last twelve games, though they are 3-2 in their last five matches. The Bulldogs will look to take sole possession of seventh place in the SCIAC when they face Cal Lutheran 1/30, the team they currently share the spot with.

[Image courtesy of Sky Ung, Redlands Bulldog photographer]

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