Story by Sebastián Abdón Ibarra
LA VERNE, CA — The University of La Verne men's basketball returned to the court for the first time since the 2019-20 season on Saturday, dropping the season opener to the La Sierra Golden Eagles 79-57. The game was relatively close until the Golden Eagles were able to pull far ahead in the middle of the second half.
Paul Antonis led La Verne with 19 points on 6-13 shooting, including 5-10 from three. Alex Blanco had the best all-around performance with 12 points, was 3-5 from three, had a steal and a block, and was tied for the team lead in rebounding with eight.
The Leos sprinted out to an 8-0 lead in the first couple minutes of action. Brad Yasukochi had the honor of scoring La Verne's first point in two seasons with a free throw exactly one minute into the game. After their strong start, the Leos found themselves down 18-11 with 8:29 left in the first half.
Blanco subbed in and immediately provided the spark the Leos needed to get back into the game. He first played through contact on a putback for an and-1 that energized his team and got the crowd rocking. After La Sierra responded with two points to make the score 20-14, Blanco countered with a three to make it a 20-17 game with 6:42 left in the first half. Kyler Harvey later converted a layup and splashed home a three to give La Verne the lead again with 5:25 left in the half. Blanco's play toward the end of the first half seemed to be the momentary wake-up call the Leos needed and was the most impressive sequence of the night for La Verne. But it was the last lead the Leos held for the night as La Sierra retook the lead shortly and did not relinquish it.
As a team, the Leos shot an above-average 37.9 from three. In contrast, La Sierra struggled from behind the three-point line, shooting 2-14. The Leos crashed the offensive glass all night with 20 offensive boards and outrebounded the Golden Eagles 48-43. However, this game was won at the free-throw line and points in the paint. La Sierra shot 65.5 percent from the line and was rewarded with 19 points, while La Verne had a poor showing at the line and only converted six shots while shooting 35.3%.
Harvey was a key contributor off the bench with an efficient 11 points on 5-7 shooting from the field. Isaiah Knox was active on the glass, collecting eight rebounds and a block.
The Leos are back in action on Tuesday when they travel to San Diego to take on the University of San Diego Toreros.Watch Live
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