Panthers clinch playoff spot with 89-69 win over Caltech

Brendan Rider (Larry Newman Photography)
Brendan Rider (Larry Newman Photography)

ORANGE, Calif. – The Chapman University men's basketball team earned its fourth straight win on Wednesday night, clinching its first-ever SCIAC Postseason Tournament berth with a 89-69 win over Caltech at the Hutton Sports Center. With just one regular season game remaining, the 'Senior Night' victory confirmed the Panthers will finish the season with a winning overall and conference record.

Chapman (15-9, 9-6 SCIAC) came into Wednesday's matchup with the bait of postseason basketball dangling before them and they pounced on the opportunity to take an early lead. Junior C John Joyce led the charge with six of the Panthers' first 15 points as they blew past the Beavers for a 15-3 lead in the opening five minutes.

The Panthers' defense struggled to sustain the lead as Caltech (3-21, 0-15 SCIAC) mounted a comeback rally, outscoring the Panthers 17-7 over a six minute span to take a 30-28 lead with just under four minutes left in the half. Not content letting their hot start go to waste, Chapman bounced back to recapture the lead, entering halftime with a 37-36 advantage.

Anxious to solidify their spot in the postseason, the Panthers came out hot in the second half, outscoring the Beavers 29-13 in the first 12 minutes. Junior G Taylor Hamasaki scored nine of his 14 second half points in the rally en route to a game-high 22 points. Chapman hardly missed in the second half, shooting 77.8 percent (14-of-18) while the defense made the lead stick, limiting the Beavers to 37.5 percent shooting from the field for the remainder of the game.

Freshman Lawrence Lee scored a team-high 19 points for the Beavers, including 17 in the second half, but could not overcome the Panthers' scoring attack that featured four of the five starters scoring in double figures.

Junior G Colin Zavrsnick, the SCIAC scoring leader, tallied his seventh straight 20+ point game, pouring in an even 20 while adding five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Panthers honored seniors F Nick Dragovich and G Brendon Rider in a special pregame ceremony before closing out their home schedule with a victory, finishing the season with a 9-6 mark at the Hutton Center.

With the win, the Panthers solidified their spot amongst the top four teams in the conference and can secure the No. 3 spot with a season-ending win over La Verne on Saturday. Tip-off for the season finale is slated for 5 p.m. The opening round of the postseason will feature a showdown on the road with either Claremont-M-S or Pomona-Pitzer on Friday, Feb. 28.

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by Ryan Cavinder
Sports Information Assistant

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