Amidst the emotions and excitement of Senior Night, the University of Redlands men's basketball team provided a memorable experience in the final game of seven players' careers, pushing past Occidental College in a tight 86-84 victory on Tuesday in Currier Gym. After celebrating the contributions of the seniors, the Bulldogs battled in a back-and-forth contest before breaking a late-game tie with a 5-2 offensive run that came off of huge defensive plays in the final three minutes.
Senior forward Ian Gordon (Bellevue, WA) initiated the offense for the Bulldogs, scoring the team's first three points of the game. He went on to provide 11 points and four rebounds in his final Redlands competition.
Throughout the first half, both squads gained their share of leads and deficits, with Occidental holding a slight 47-42 advantage when the teams retreated to the locker rooms. The Tigers shot an impressive 51.4% in the opening frame, which included five more shots than the Maroon and Gray.
However, Redlands settled into a hard-fought comeback in the second half, as the Bulldogs garnered their first lead of the second half at 72-69 when sophomore forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) knocked down a three-pointer with 8:30 left on the clock.
The teams traded baskets until the Tigers pulled slightly away due to plenty of opportunities at the charity stripe.
Down 74-78 with 4:20 to play, Redlands looked to freshman guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) to sink a pair of free-throws before senior forward/guard Eric Radford (Federal Way, WA) hit a shot from beyond the arc to tie it up at 79.
A huge steal by senior forward Alex Rudd (St. Louis, MO) led to a key lay-up by Milligan, making it an 83-79 lead for the Maroon and Gray with just over two minutes to go in the second half.
A flurry of turnovers by both teams ensued, eating up the clock for nearly a minute.
But Kris Montoya kept the Tigers in it when he hit a jumper at the one-minute mark, cutting the deficit back to two.
Following an Occidental timeout, the Bulldogs orchestrated a critical driving play to the basket with junior guard Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) converting the huge lay-up with 32 seconds left on the clock. This was immediately followed by a monumental charge by Radford.
Forced to foul, the Tigers sent Rudd to the line, where he made the first free-throw.
Despite a last-second three-pointer by Occidental's Kory Hamane, the Bulldogs secured the exciting 86-84 win with smart defense in the final second.
All of Redlands' seniors provided instrumental minutes in their final game as Bulldogs. Senior guard Robby Turk (Aurora, CO) scored five points and took an important charge late in the action, while senior guard Kendel Glapion (San Francisco, CA) added nine points and one assist. Rudd completed his last game with 12 points, two blocks, two steals, and two assists, as senior guard Ricky Peetz (Redlands, CA) contributed five points, two assists, and two steals. Finally, senior guard Matt Calhoun (Clackamas, OR) stepped up with 14 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two assists.
Radford's finale included 18 points, including three three-pointers, and three rebounds. After the game, he shared his thoughts on the last game of his career at Redlands.
Redlands' defense forced Occidental into 23 turnovers, which led to 23 of the Bulldogs' points. Overall, the Maroon and Gray also knocked down two more three-pointers than the opponents, providing a slight yet significant difference.
With the win, the Bulldogs (11-14, 7-9 SCIAC) finish in a tie for fifth place with the University of La Verne in the final conference standings, just outside of the qualifying quartet for the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.