The Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team picked up a couple of big conference victories over Chapman University and Caltech this past week to keep them in prime playoff contention. The wins moved the Sagehens’ record to 13-7.
The Sagehens traveled to Chapman knowing that a win would give them sole possession of third place in the SCIAC, behind University of Redlands and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The top four teams make the SCIAC playoffs, and the top two host a playoff game.
The first half was low-scoring, but Donald Okpalugo PO ’13 had six points to pace the Sagehens to a 27-21 advantage at halftime. After the half, the Panthers threatened repeatedly but could never quite make up the deficit. After drawing within three points with 4:51 left, the Sagehens allowed only one more point, finishing with a 51-44 victory.
Jake Klewer PO ’13 and Okpalugo led the Sagehens with ten points apiece, and Klewer had a game-high seven rebounds. The Sagehens held Chapman to just 35-percent shooting from the field, and opposing guard Jordan Young was the only Leopard to record more than seven points.
If you know anything about Caltech athletics, you’re probably aware that, historically, they have had some difficulty putting the W on the board. The Beavers have received national attention for their athletic futility, with the men’s baseball team snapping a 228-game losing streak last Saturday and the women’s volleyball team breaking a 56-match losing streak last year. The men’s basketball team is the most infamous of all: They went winless in SCIAC play from 1986 to 2011, when they finally beat Occidental College.
All that is old news, though: Under coach Oliver Eslinger, the Beavers have been consistently competitive in recent years. The P-P men’s team knew that they weren’t going to be able to cruise by the Beavers. In the end, they pulled out a 72-56 win that was much, much closer than the score indicates.
The Sagehens lost Klewer less than 30 seconds into the game when he landed awkwardly under the basket and turned his ankle, but Okpalugo and Joe Knight PZ ’16 performed well in his absence, combining for 15 points and 11 rebounds. Even without Klewer, the Sagehens enjoyed a large size advantage: Okpalugo and Knight, both 6’8″, were often matched up against 6’2″ Ethan Boroson, who was a stocky and hardworking figure in the low post but was not able to keep the Sagehens’ big men off the boards.
The Beavers came out hot, making 60 percent of their shots in the first half. All-SCIAC Second Team selection Michael Edwards and guard Andrew Hogue gave the Sagehens all they could handle, combining for 24 of the Beavers’ 30 points in the first half. After falling behind by as many as 10 points, the Sagehens regrouped and went into halftime down by two.
The second half was extremely tight for the first 15 minutes. After Boroson tied the game at 52 with 7:28 left, the Sagehens went on a decisive 10-2 run keyed by a couple big drives from Kyle McAndrews PO ’15 and sealed the deal with some big free throws down the stretch.
McAndrews led the Sagehens with 18 points and five assists, and Michael Cohen PO ’15 had an off shooting night but still finished with 12 points and seven steals. John Weiss PO ’14, taking advantage of frequent size mismatches, had 17 points on 7-9 shooting.
The Sagehens will continue conference play with a trip to California Lutheran University on Saturday and a home game against rival CMS on Monday.