On this day last year, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team was coming off a big senior night win against Whittier College and preparing for the first round of the SCIAC tournament. Holding the second seed, the Sagehens went on to beat the third-seeded Poets before falling to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a close championship game for an NCAA bid.
At the conclusion of that season, I wrote that the best was yet to be seen from this squad. With four underclassmen in the starting lineup and a fifth coming off the bench and scoring in bunches, a little development over the offseason seemed like a guarantee. The Hens were poised to enter this year as SCIAC favorites.
This year, P-P finds itself headed into the playoffs after a season of mixed success and staring down a first-round matchup against regular season champions, University of Redlands. So, what happened?
The loss of Jack Klukas PO ’15 without a doubt hurt the team. The SCIAC newcomer of the year put up high point totals frequently in his first-year season. More importantly, his combination of three-point shooting and post presence made it easier for every other player on the floor. Klukas would draw defenders to the corners, giving Kyle McAndrews PO ’15 easier driving lanes, and he could move inside to help John Weiss PO ’14 maintain a physical presence against larger opposing centers.
Losing Evan Zahniser PO ’12 did not help either. The only senior that constantly contributed last season, Zahniser helped lead a team of young guns and picked up the offense when shots would not fall. When he ran point, he gave McAndrews or Michael Cohen PO ’15 the ability to come off the screen and cut, a combination the two sophomores have not yet perfected without Zahniser on the floor.
However, it has not all been downhill for the Sagehens. McAndrews has matured into a team leader, and his ability to get to the rim and finish puts him in a high class in the SCIAC. The return of Xavyr Moss PZ ’13 has given the team another offensive weapon. His shooting was key in a win at Occidental College on Saturday, and he has exploded in other games this season. Furthermore, adding size in the first-year recruiting class through Joe Knight PZ ‘16 and Reid Callan PO ‘16 gives hope for a larger inside presence in future seasons.
As the Hens travel to Redlands tonight, they will face a tough opponent that has endured a long the season and withstood repeated challenges from a strong CMS squad. But never count this team out. Their ability to outwit and break down defenses shone through even in losses this season. The run to start last week’s CMS game was the best basketball they have played, and stretching that to a half or more will challenge the best in Division III.
It may not exactly be sports, but the Academy Awards make waves throughout the media. As an avid movie watcher, I couldn’t help but predict some of the big winners for Sunday’s Oscars as well.
Best Picture: Argo
For me, it’s a toss-up between Argo and Lincoln, but I think Argo will win the voters over. It is thrilling throughout and benefits from great performances by minor characters played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. In any other year, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, or Beasts of the Southern Wild might have won, but the top of the field is too strong.
Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
It is uncommon for a Best Picture/Best Director split, but it is tough when two of the most deserving are snubbed from the nomination as Ben Affleck (Argo) and Catherine Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) were this season. I like Lee as a wildcard over Spielberg. His representation of the book through strong acting and incredible cinematography screams Oscar-worthy.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
There is no explanation necessary; he is the best actor of our time. Maybe ever.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
My heart says Quvenzhané Wallis, it really does, and I hope she grows up to be an incredible actress, but I have to go with Lawrence. Her representation of mental illness is a unique combination of chilling and hilarious, and she shines opposite Bradley Cooper. If she does not get it, Jessica Chastain makes a fantastic case for herself.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
He is the Daniel Day-Lewis of supporting actors. He is consistently cast in incredible roles and plays them to Oscar success. Django was a good movie without him; it is a Best Picture nominee with him.
Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver was funny; Sally Fields was fine. Helen Hunt picked up a unique role and took it.
Biggest Disappointment: Les Miserables
It is hard to turn a Broadway production into a successful movie; none but Chicago have found recent Oscar success. That said, the expectations around Les Mis were high, and the mediocre singing through a long plot left viewers dissatisfied and will leave the producers Oscar-less Sunday night.
Best Presenter: Robert Downey Jr.
He can be the funniest man in Hollywood when he wants to be. Let’s hope he wants to be on Sunday.
Worst Presenter: Jamie Foxx
He can be a great actor but seems a bit dry on the personality when it comes to real life. I am hoping he surprises me when he presents.