On Saturday, Nov. 24, in the midst of Thanksgiving break, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team (4-0) pulled off one of the biggest wins in program history. It took double overtime for the Sagehens to take down the Whitman Blues (4-1) at Voelkel Gymnasium, in the final game of the Wells Classic, an event that brought teams from outside the region to Claremont.
Whitman entered the game as the No. 4 team in the nation, fresh off an 84-75 win over the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags (2-2) the day before. The Blues were the team that knocked CMS out of the NCAA Tournament last year on their way to the Elite Eight, ending CMS’ historic 17-game win streak.
Both the Sagehens and the Blues entered the game undefeated, and the game was competitive from the opening tip. The first half ended with a bang: A breakaway dunk by Alex Preston PO ’21 with six seconds left was followed by a buzzer beating three from Whitman’s Joey Hewitt, giving the visitors a 43-41 lead at the break.
The second half was just as competitive as the first, and the game went back and forth the whole way. The Sagehens were able to build a slim lead late, and went up six with just 36 seconds remaining, thanks to two clutch free throws from Preston, who finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.
However, the Blues finished off regulation with back-to-back three-pointers from Jack Stewart, the second one coming with eight seconds remaining, to send the game to overtime.
The teams continued to trade baskets in the first overtime, with six lead changes and four ties in the five-minute period. Down three with 14 seconds to go, the Sagehens opted to go for a quick score followed by an intentional foul.
After Daniel Rosenbaum PO ’19 hit a layup to cut it to one, P-P fouled, hoping the Blues would miss a free throw. However, Whitman knocked down the pair, putting the Sagehens back down three with only six seconds left.
Coming out of a timeout, P-P executed a beautifully drawn up inbounds play designed to get the ball to Rosenbaum, who finished the game with 25 points. The pass soared across the court from the sideline to the far corner, where the senior nailed a three from right in front of the bench to send the game to double overtime.
Early in the second overtime, Micah Elan PZ ’20 took over for the Sagehens, scoring seven straight points to cap off a huge night. Elan finished with 38 points, six rebounds, and six assists, including six threes and only one turnover in a game-leading 43 minutes of action. Thirty-eight points was a career high for Elan, whose performance earned him SCIAC Athlete of the Week honors.
The Sagehens went up by as many as six in the second overtime, but the Blues still had a chance to tie the game late. Down three in the final seconds, the ball was kicked out to Darne Duckett who appeared to be open at the top of the key, but his shot was blocked at the buzzer by Jack Boyle PZ ’20.
The win was the first in P-P’s history over an opponent ranked in the top five. Coupled with an undefeated start, the upset was enough to earn the Sagehens the No. 25 spot in the most recent national rankings.
The Sagehens will travel to St. Louis Nov. 30 for the Lopata Classic. They then face off against the defending SCIAC Champion Stags at CMS the following Thursday.