In an exciting back-and-forth battle, the University of Redlands men's basketball team pushed past the Firebirds of the University of St. Katherine in a tight 80-77 decision during the nightcap of the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic in Currier Gym on Friday night.
The opening minute foreshadowed the rest of the game, as both teams matched each other's three-pointers on their respective first possessions. Senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) not only hit the Bulldogs' first trey-ball but connected on two more from deep for the home team's early 9-5 advantage.
Junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) joined the three-point attack with one of his own to create the Maroon and Gray's largest lead of the game at 15-5 with 16:00 remaining in the first half.
Although Redlands held the Firebirds at bay for the next few minutes, St. Katherine launched a three to take a 24-22 lead with less than eight minutes to go. The Firebirds extended that to five before Sponheim hit his fourth three-pointer of the game to trim it down to two.
After first-year forward Kameron Wright (Fontana, CA) knotted the game at 29-all, first-year forward Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA) found the hot hand in Sponheim, who drained another ball from deep to put the Bulldogs back in front with 3:46 to go in the stanza.
The teams traded leads again and again before D. Menary stole the ball and laid it up and in as time expired for the Maroon and Gray's 42-37 advantage as the teams headed into the halftime break.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with the Firebirds knocking down a three-pointer in the first minute of action. Despite Sponheim's layup on the other end, St. Katherine re-gained the lead by the 16:40-mark. Nonetheless, it did not take long for Redlands to storm back with buckets from four different players to overtake the lead at 52-51.
The Firebirds' three-point presence shifted the momentum of the game and allowed the visitors to go up by a score of 71-65 with 5:18 remaining in the game.
However, a motivated Redlands team swiped the energy right back after a tip-in and back-to-back three-pointers from Sponheim and D. Menary with 2:32 left in the game.
Tangled at 75-75, D. Menary ignited the spirited home crowd with a three-point dagger to control a 78-75 lead and force a Firebird timeout with just over a minute left on the clock.
The Bulldogs' plan to stop St. Katherine's three-point attack came to fruition, as all four attempts in the final minute were thwarted by the defense. Although the Firebirds moved within one, G. Menary came up clutch with a pair of made free-throws with only three seconds left to ice the game at 80-77.
Sponheim and Menary stepped up in a big way to account for 55% of the Bulldogs' overall offense. Sponheim commanded the attack with 22 points while also providing four rebounds and two assists. He matched his career-high with 6-for-9 shooting from deep, five of which came in the first half. D. Menary complemented him with 20 points, seven rebounds, and two steals. He proved to be a perimeter threat as well by matching his career-high with three three-pointers. Junior guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) and G. Menary led the Bulldogs' bench, which outscored the Firebirds' by a 35-22 margin. G. Menary posted 11 points, along with seven rebounds and three assists. As a team, the Maroon and Gray executed its most effective game from deep by shooting at an 11-for-21 clip for 52.4%.
In the opening game of the night, Pacific Union College jumped on Bethesda University early to ultimately win, 96-63. The Pioneers dominated the glass with a 56-42 advantage, leading to 21 second-chance points. Scoring down low was a point of emphasis for PUC, managing 50 points in the paint to Bethesda's 32. In addition to sharing the ball with 19 assists as a team, the Pioneers shot 42% from the field.
For PUC, junior forward Tim Ford led six players in double-figures with an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double. Senior forward Wayne Englestad chipped in 16 points and four rebounds.
For the Flames, senior guard Branden Charbonier led all scorers with 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds. First-year guard Dallin Takairangi added 12 points, three assists, and two steals, while senior guard Mehran Nazarian produced 11 points and four rebounds off the bench.
The action of the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic continues on Saturday, December 1, as Redlands (4-2) takes on Pacific Union at 7 p.m., following the St. Katherine-Bethesda matchup at 5 p.m.