THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - In the final home game of the season at Gilbert Arena, the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team used a big second half spurt to edge Occidental 69-60 on senior night.
Prior to tip-off, the senior quartet of Lanaki Apele, Connor McGuire, Jeremy Sulker-Hall and Dan Wade were recognized for their contributions to the Kingsmen basketball program over the past four years. It was fitting that all four would make significant contributions on Monday night to lead CLU to victory one more time at home.
At the outset of the game, both teams were looking to slow down the tempo and use up much of the shot clock on offense. CLU spread the ball around evenly throughout the game, and early on all four seniors got into the mix.
An Apele jumper at the 11:13 mark in the first half gave the Kingsmen a 12-9 lead with all five starters having scored. Occidental answered with a 9-1 run to take its largest lead of the game up by five, 18-13.
Still trailing by five, 24-19, moments later, McGuire knocked down a pair of free throws and Sulker-Hall cashed in a layup on an assist from Apele to tie the game at 24-24. The Tigers added a basket to head into the break up by two, 26-24.
Neither team shot very well in the opening frame, with the Tigers going 11-for-29 from the field (37.9 percent) and the Kingsmen going just 8-for-25 (32 percent).
Five minutes into the second half, with the score knotted up at 36-36, freshman Austin Cole dialed in two treys from long distance on back-to-back possessions to fire up the crowd and put CLU ahead 42-36. Sulker-Hall followed with back-to-back layups after nifty passes from Cole and Apele to complete the 10-0 run.
Despite taking a 10-point advantage, the Tigers whittled their way back into the game with the three-ball and tied the score at 53-53 with 4:40 remaining.
The four seniors propelled the Kingsmen down the stretch with an old-fashioned three-point play from Wade, layups from Sulker-Hall and Apele, and big rebounds from McGuire. Not to be outdone, freshman Cole hit another clutch three-pointer to seal the game.
Overall in the second half, CLU shot an incredible 72 percent (18-for-25) and hit 4-of-7 on three-point attempts. Sulker-Hall finished with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-12 from the field while Wade added 19 on an 8-of-14 night. McGuire grabbed a career-best 18 rebounds and Apele also tallied a career-high with seven assists. Cole finished in double-figures with 13 points after hitting three three-pointers and also added five assists.
Kory Hamane led the Tigers with 18 points and Andrew Johnson added 14.
With their 10th win of the year, it marks the 26th consecutive season that the Kingsmen have won at least 10 games dating back to the 1989-90 season.
Cal Lutheran (10-12, 6-9 SCIAC) will conclude its season tomorrow on the road at Whittier at 5:00 p.m.