Poets move into tie for second place with win over Redlands
Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College men's basketball team continues to move forward in their quest for another SCIAC post season berth as they beat the Bulldogs of the University of Redlands Wednesday evening 94-91 in the friendly confines of the Graham Athletic Center.
Whittier who was tied with Redlands coming into tonight's contest now improves to 15-6, 7-3 SCIAC, while Redlands drops to 11-10, 6-4 SCIAC.
In a game full of high intensity and fan interaction the Whittier College Poets pulled out the tough victory after falling to the Bulldogs earlier in the season 103-91.
Nathaniel Easterman who has been having his best season thus far in a Poet uniform erupted for 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting to go with six rebounds and three blocks. Drew Menez who is the SCIAC leading scorer at 17.4 ppg again hit double digits finishing with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Despite being outshot 59% to 53% for the game the Poets made up for it on the defensive side of the ball forcing 27 turnovers and getting 20 points off of them that proved to be the difference late in the game.
The entire game was a seesaw battle with seven lead changes occurring in the first half and 16 all together for the game and that was the tale of the game as neither team could gain a double digit lead. The Purple & Gold trailed at the beginning of the half until Greg Preer who finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with four assists and five steals knocked down a three pointer that tied the game up at 14-14 at the 15:24 mark. But Redlands then went on a run of their own extending their lead to seven. After a 6-1 run of their own the Poets got within two and then grabbed the lead at 28-26 at the 7:48 mark after an 8-0 run sparked by a Bo Rodriguez three pointer that got the fans on their feet and the Poets within three.
Back to back to back possessions by the Poets leveled the game at 34-34 with 4:35 to play in the first half but another 7-0 run extended the Poet lead to four. But Redlands didn't go away as they continued to battle and were able to come back to go on a 9-4 run to close out the half taking a one point lead into the half.
Coming out of the break, Menez put the Poets back on top with a jumper but again two more lead changes occurred before Whittier went on another 7-0 thanks to Preer's three ball and jumper from the baseline.
Whittier continued to take leads but was unable to pull away due to the second chance opportunities Redlands had inside the paint and this could be seen as the Poets were outrebounded by 10. The fight continued to go on throughout the second half until tempers began to fly at the 10:59 mark when Tristan Kirk was forced to the bench due to an injury after getting blocked by Preer that got the fans out of their seats along with Coach Ducey who was up in arms because of the no call. He was later called for a technical that gave Whittier two free points giving them a two point advantage 69-67.
But with this no call Redlands got fired up and went on a 7-0 run to take a lead 74-69 before a Rodriguez three pointer cut the lead to two. Estrada again made a three pointer helping him finish with a team high 21 points going 7-of-10 from behind the three point line. But that's all he was able to do as Whittier opened up a 12-2 run at the 4:47 mark that covered three minutes.
Up by three with 1:26 to go, the Poet Pit came alive making it difficult for the Bulldogs to run their offense but somehow Estrada came up with a big three that tied the game up at 90-90. Preer then took the ball and went coast to coast and put up a jumper from the elbow that put the Poets back on top and on the ensuing possession Matt Calhoun's three ball rimmed in an out allowing Whittier to preserve the three point win.
Up next for Whittier is Occidental College who they handled easily in their first contest of the season but this time around Oxy is on a three game winning streak and one game out of fourth place. So it should be a great game and its set for this Saturday, February 11 beginning at 7pm.