The University of Redlands men's basketball team battled it out against the visiting Whittier College Poets in Wednesday's showdown in Currier Gym. While overcoming a foul-laden game, the Bulldogs snagged a 69-64 victory over the Poets to open Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action.
After junior wing Brittian Foster (Long Beach, CA) found senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) on an open three-pointer for the first bucket of the game, the Bulldogs appeared to be primed for a solid night. Two Sponheim free-throws later, Redlands owned a 5-0 lead less than a minute into the SCIAC opener.
Redlands quickly stretched it to 12-3 on nearly perfect shooting, with sophomore forward Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA), Foster, and Sponheim hitting buckets. Junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) and first-year wing Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA) combined efforts for the next seven points, while Sponheim chipped in another layup for the Bulldogs' 21-8 advantage with 13:40 to go in the first half.
But the Bulldogs went cold over the next three minutes until junior guard Hass Berry's (Riverside, CA) trey-ball off a dime of a pass from first-year forward Kameron Wright (Fontana, CA) ended the scoring drought. D. Menary knocked down what would be the home team's final field goal of the first half with 7:15 remaining. Neither team created much of an offensive rhythm late in the half, as fouls troubled both ends of the court.
Nonetheless, Whittier managed to hit a few shots, which sent the teams into the locker room with Redlands owning a slight 30-24 advantage.
Early in the second half, the shooting struggles continued for both teams. Other than Sponheim sinking a jumper at the 18:04-mark, Redlands relied on free throws to put points on the board.
With 16:49 on the clock, Landolf ignited the Bulldogs with a huge block and defensive rebound that he quickly turned into a layup for a 35-29 advantage. After Whittier coughed up the ball on its subsequent possession, Sponheim took full advantage with a bucket from downtown. The trend continued, as Redlands forced another Poet miscue and Landolf capitalized with a driving layup off a dime of a pass from Berry.
However, the Bulldogs endured another five-minute stretch with only free-throws but managed to stay in front with a 49-35 lead by the 10:53-mark. Landolf stepped up with a jumper off Sponheim's pass to end the dry spell.
But the Poets refused to go away. Whittier forced the press and found a way to score against the Bulldogs, eventually tying it up on a 25-11 run over the next nine minutes.
Now knotted at 60 with 2:35 to play, the teams traded buckets, with D. Menary coming through in the clutch for Redlands. In addition to a pair of free-throws, he drove the lane for a huge layup before sinking a step-back jumper from the top of the key for a 66-64 lead. Sophomore guard Michael Hanna (Murrieta, CA) and Berry each grabbed critical rebounds on Whittier's late misses. In addition, Hanna and D. Menary each converted late free-throws to seal the deal for the Maroon and Gray.
By the final whistle, the teams had collected 57 fouls and taken 66 free-throws.
Menary finished with 21 points, including 13 free throws, to go along with eight rebounds and two assists. Sponheim added 18 points, five boards, and two assists, while Landolf chipped in a career-high 10 points and offered seven rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
Redlands (6-2, 1-0 SCIAC) hosts UC Santa Cruz in an in-region contest on Saturday, December 8, at 7 p.m. in Currier Gym.