LA VERNE, Calif. — Niall Harrison tipped in the game-winner with 2.9 seconds left in the second overtime and the University of La Verne men's basketball team survived a scare from Caltech, 59-57, at Frantz Court on Saturday evening.
With the score tied at 57-57 and the shot clock turned off, Karl Reyes beat his man at the top of the key, drove hard with his left hand and went up for a contested layup. His attempt was a tad too strong but fortunately for La Verne, Harrison was wide open on the other side of the basket for the rebound.
"I was just looking to box out and get the best position I could so I could get a tip-in if it rolled off," Harrison said.
The senior then went up, got both of his hands on the ball and glanced it off the backboard for the game winner.
Caltech had one more shot to either extend the game or win it, but Andrew Hogue's attempt from 30 feet out clanged off the back rim as time expired.
"It feels good to get the game winner," Harrison said. "But it's everyone, it's the whole team. We fought through two overtimes and Brett [Stephan] hit a big shot before that and put us in position to get the win."
Stephan hit a huge three-pointer from straightaway to tie the game at 55-55 and tied it again at 57-57 with a long jumper to set the Leopards up.
"The first thing I said to the guys in the huddle was, 'Relax,'" La Verne head coach Richard Reed said. "A lot of our seniors had been in that situation before and at that point the players are going to make plays. I have a saying, 'The first team to relax wins.'
"I thought we were tight early but we relaxed as the game got into later stages."
La Verne's seniors came up big and showed leadership in tough situations throughout the as the Beavers looked to break a 52-game SCIAC losing streak. Trailing 44-42 with less than 20 seconds left in the regulation, Reyes made a gutsy drive to the basket, drew a foul and calmly knocked in the ensuing free throws to tie the game.
The Beavers quickly scored the first four points in the first over time to grab a four-point lead but another senior, Josiah Sukumaran, answered with a layup and Reyes hit a tough jumper to give La Verne a 52-50 lead with just over a minute left in first overtime.
"I challenged the upperclassmen this week to step up and make plays," Reed said. "They brought the calm today and you can't replace experience. So I trust them and they stepped up today."
La Verne improves to 6-10 overall and 2-5 in SCIAC play. Caltech falls to 1-15 and 0-7.
La Verne smothered the Beavers defensively to start the game and took the largest lead of the game, 22-8, with a Nicholas Lewis jumper with 5:27 left in the first half. But Caltech did not lose their poise and answered with seven straight points to head into the break trailing, 22-15.
Caltech picked it up right where it left off to begin the second half and took its first lead of the game at the 13:55 mark with a quick hook shot by Nasser Al-Rayes.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way and Caltech seemed to get the upper hand as it grabbed a 40-36 lead with seven minutes to go. But Sukumaran hit a big jumper from the left base line, Harrison put in four points and Reyes hit the clutch free throws to send the game into overtime.
Harrison finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds. Stephan had 12 of the bench and Sukumaran had six while hauling in eight rebounds.
Al-Rayes and Kc Emezie each scored 14 points for Caltech and Hogue grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
La Verne begins a three-game road swing next week with a trip to Redlands on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.Follow La Verne Athletics on Twitter @ULVAthletics Follow La Verne Athletics on Instagram @ULVAthletics
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