REDLANDS, Calif. — Cruz Mertens scored a team-high 15 points off the bench and the La Verne men's basketball team mounted a big second half rally, erasing an 11-point first half deficit against Wisconsin-River Falls.
But Devin Buckley hit a pair of free throws with 6.6 seconds left to make it 71-69 for the Falcons (5-1), Kendall McClain missed a 3-point attempt as clock expired and Wisconsin-River Falls held on for the win on Friday night in the first game of the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic, hosted by Redlands.
Khaneal Mason was able to drive the ball up the court after Buckley's free throws and got McClain a decent look on the right wing, but the ball just rimmed out.
La Verne picks up its first loss of the season and drops to 2-1.
The Leopards trailed by as much as 15 points early in the second half but slowly chipped away at the deficit and went on a 10-2 run just past the halfway mark of the period to tie the game at 60-60.
Hakim Arnold hit a jumper with 1:33 left to give La Verne a 69-67 lead. Alex Herink tied it back up with a jumper near the free throw line with 44 seconds remaining and the Falcons pressed Anthony White into a tough turnaround jumper on the other end, forcing a miss.
Wisconsin-River Falls called a timeout in the front court with 13 seconds left to draw a play. The Leopards played a good defense, but Buckley was able to weave in off the baseline on a broken play to earn the game-winning free throws.
Mertens scored all of his points on 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc. Arnold finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Garrett Pearson led all players with 25 points for the Falcons. Buckely finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Herink scored 14.
The Leopards return to action back at Currier Gym tomorrow at 5 p.m. against Trinity (Texas).