Sagehen Basketball Falls Again in Closing Seconds

Pomona-Pitzer overcame a 16-point first half deficit against Occidental only to drop another last-second heartbreaker, losing 57-55 on Wednesday night at home. Oxy’s Deshun McCoy scored the game-winning lay-up with 3.2 seconds to go on an assist from Jack Hanley. P-P was unable to muster a quality look on the ensuing possession, as Kyle McAndrews’s PO ’15 difficult shot from 30 feet away nicked the rim.  

The Sagenhens again failed to shoot well, particularly in the first half, when they only managed seven field goals. Occidental’s aggressive defense and potent offense shocked P-P at the start of the game and carried the Tigers to a commanding 25-9 lead. From there on out, however, the Sagehens looked the better team. They cut the gap to eight at the half and stayed close until Danny Brown’s PO ’12 three-point play with four minutes left tied the game. Brown’s finish and free throw came soon after his momentum-shifting three-pointer from straight on, which brought the Sagehens within four with 7:18 left.   

Michael Cohen PO ’15 led the Sagehens with fifteen points, matching the game-high fifteen he scored in the team’s win against La Verne on Saturday. Cohen hit one of two free throws with twenty seconds remaining to tie the game. Preceding Cohen’s free throw, Jake Klewer PO ’14 brought the score to 55-54 on an alley-oop slam, assisted by Cohen, a play that demonstrated why he is one of the most explosive players in the SCIAC. Klewer led the team with eight rebounds. Brown added six.  

P-P was outrebounded by a tally of 37-25 on the night, an area that Coach Charles Katsiaficas has highlighted as essential if the team is to be competitive in the postseason. Coach Katz was pleased with the team’s effort on the boards in the win against La Verne. 

“Rebounding is something we have been focused upon, so it was good to see us win that battle on Saturday,” he said. P-P pulled down 37 rebounds, with nine coming from Klewer and eight from Evan Zahniser PO’12, to La Verne’s 26 on Saturday.   

Coming into Wednesday’s game, Coach Katz did not take the Tigers—under .500 in conference play before facing the Sagehens—lightly.  

“They’re a tough team,” he said. “The thing about this conference is that there isn’t a big difference between the number one team and the number seven team.” Coach Katz also mentioned Oxy’s two talented former all-conference selections Conrad Liebowitz and McCoy as players to watch.  These were the two Tigers who hurt the Sagehens the most on Wednesday. Liebowitz finished with 14 points, and McCoy had 16, the game winner included, on 6 of 8 shooting.  

When P-P has been successful this season, they have relied upon a balanced scoring attack.  In their 74-63 win against La Verne, to go with Cohen’s fifteen, they got twelve from Klewer, eleven from Jack Klukas PO’15, eight from Donald Okpalugo PO ’13, and seven apiece from John Weiss PO ’14 and Zahniser.  They failed to receive similar production against Occidental. McAndrews scored eleven, Brown finished with eight and Klewer seven, but no one else contributed significantly to the team’s output.

With the loss, the Sagehens drop to 13-9 on the season and 8-4 in conference play, putting them in third place in the SCIAC.  In their final two games, they face the top two teams in the conference: 9-3 Whitter, who they play at home on Saturday, and 11-1 CMS, who they will encounter in what is sure to be a heated game on the north side of Sixth Street this upcoming Tuesday.  P-P beat Whittier in their match-up at Whittier by a score of 66-57.  They suffered a last-second defeat at the hands of CMS in front of a packed house at Rains in the first instantiation of the rivalry series.  The loss to CMS was one of three last-second home defeats for P-P, with Wednesday’s Oxy loss and the 47-46 defeat to Cal Lutheran last Wednesday rounding out the three unfortunate finishes for the Sagehens.       

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