Clash at CARW: Top seeds P-P and CMS battle it out in Sixth Street shootout for SCIAC regular season title

Owen Avdalovic PZ ’21 defends James Frye CM ’26 in the second Sixth Street Rivalry game of the 2022-2023 season (Courtesy: Sagehen Athletics)

The Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) men’s basketball regular seasons came to a close Tuesday, Feb. 21, with the Sagehens overcoming the Stags in a Sixth Street rivalry showdown that crowned P-P regular season SCIAC champions. 

P-P and CMS came into this season with high expectations after two successful campaigns last year. CMS finished their 2021-22 season 17-8 overall and 10-6 in conference play, falling to Chapman in the SCIAC tournament semifinals. Meanwhile, P-P continued their stretch of conference dominance, winning their third straight SCIAC regular season and tournament titles.

The Sagehens stumbled out of the gate in November, losing four of their first six games, but quickly righted the ship and refocused their energy heading into December 2022. 

According to Jack Paradis PZ ’26, this shift in energy was key to their success after their rocky start.

“We had a lot of energy coming into games, which I think we kinda lacked in the first half of the season,” Paradis said.

Following a 79-77 loss to Puget Sound in the David Wells Classic in November 2022, the Hens went on to win all but one of their remaining regular season games, taking a 19-6 overall and 14-1 SCIAC record into their final matchup against CMS.

The Stags, however, started their season hot and refused to look back. A sweep of the David Wells Classic set the tone for the remainder of the year. Entering the season finale, CMS stood at an impressive 13-2 conference record and 21-5 overall, just a game shy of P-P.

Kiran Kruse CM ’23, the Stags’ second-leading scorer, explained the team’s shared mentality was key to their consistent performance.

“I attribute the kind of sustained success that we had this year to the individual and collective mental toughness that the guys on the team have,” Kruse said. The mental fortitude to get through … the long road trips … Those days aren’t always easy.”

With the SCIAC regular season title on the line, Claremont men’s basketball converged in a Sixth Street shootout on Feb. 21. With the Hens looking for a season sweep after beating the Stags 80-76 in the teams matchup earlier this season, P-P and CMS duked it out one last time ahead of the postseason. 

Both teams came out of the blocks slowly, with neither team finding the net in the first two minutes of play. The Sagehens and Stags traded baskets throughout the first half, with CMS taking a slim 20-19 lead ten minutes into the game. This narrow margin was not to last though as P-P managed to turn the tide, leading 38-32 at halftime.

P-P came out of the break firing from long range. On the back of 3-pointers from Ty Bergman PO ’25, Joe Cookson PO ’25 and Pete Boyle PZ ’25, the Hens opened the half on a 14-3 run, giving them a commanding 52-35 point lead, their largest of the night.

However, the Stags still had fight left in them, chipping away at the Sagehens’ lead with consistent baskets from Kruse, Rhett Carter CM ’23 and Matt Merideth CM ’25. Kruse elaborated on how CMS got themselves back into the game.

“Especially in the second half of the season … we got very comfortable playing from behind, and we kind of made a habit of making these comebacks,” Kruse said. “Nobody panics, and I think that’s a tribute to some of the experience and senior leadership that we have on a team.”

The trio combined for 18 of the team’s 28 points in a stretch that culminated with Kruse knocking down a 3-pointer to bring the Stags within two points with 4:15 remaining. After hitting the shot, Kruse exploded with emotion.

“I certainly got a little excited [and] yelled at the crowd a little bit, but I think that emotion has been something that has always been a little bit of a part of how I play,” Kruse said. “I think it can really help a team get up and keep the energy high, especially during the run in a game like that.”

Both matchups between the Hens and the Stags have come down to the wire this year, and according to Cookson, who dropped a team-high 21 points, it’s games like these that drive P-P to be the best competitors they can be. 

“[The Sixth Street Rivalry] helps us grow a lot … We love to play in these games … We all rise to the occasion … We love those close games. We love the rivalry. And you know, it’s always great coming out on top as well,” Cookson said. 

On Saturday, the Sagehens fell victim to a barrage of 3-pointers from Cal Lutheran, yielding to the fourth seed 79-73 in the SCIAC tournament semifinals. After going down 53-34 at halftime, P-P managed to cut the seemingly insurmountable lead to just one in the final minute and a half of the game but could not complete the comeback, bringing their tournament to a close.

The Stags followed suit just minutes later, suffering a narrow 78-75 defeat versus Redlands, knocking them out of the playoffs. In a game that came down to the wire, it was Redlands’ ability to knock down free throws in the games’ final minutes that pushed them past a talented CMS team.

On Monday, Feb. 27, P-P received a bid for the D-III NCAA tournament. The Hens will face Williams College in the round of 64. However, despite an impressive season, the Stags season came to a close after their loss to Redlands. Nevertheless, reflecting on his collegiate career coming to a close, Kruse looked to the future of CMS.

“I truly can’t put into words how much I appreciate everything that [my teammates and] the coaches have done for me over my time here,” Kruse said. “I’m excited to see what this team can do next year and in the years [to come] … I think it’s a really bright future.” 

Facebook Comments