Moss Shines, Sagehens Tackle Nationally Ranked St. Thomas in Season Opener

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team started its season
on a promising note, knocking off No. 15 University of St. Thomas by the score of 80-77 on Friday, Nov. 16th.
A victory against a nationally ranked opponent is a good sign for the
Sagehens season, who held off a late rallying effort by the visitors despite missing
the services of star guard Kyle McAndrews PO ’15. The absence of last year’s
leading scorer didn’t seem to put too much of a dent in P-P’s overall scoring
production, however, as P-P’s depth was on full display.

After a scrappy start where both
sides lacked cohesiveness on offensive, the tempo began to pick
up towards the middle of the first half. John Weiss PO ’14 helped the Sagehens keep pace with the St. Thomas Tommies in the early going, as the forward picked up some crucial buckets to
keep the game tight. St. Thomas, despite making a lengthy road
trip, was composed and effective at both ends from the beginning.

After trading baskets with the
Tommies for most of the first 10 minutes, P-P began to pull away on the
scoreboard. Xavyr Moss PZ ’14 and Nick Nordale PZ ’17 found a more consistent scoring touch to complement the efforts of
Weiss. The contributions from Moss and Nordale, combined with a determined and increasingly organized defense, helped the
home side force St. Thomas into more pressured shots. P-P took brief control of
proceedings, temporarily stretching the lead to as much as 11 points before going into
halftime ahead 38-29.

Although the lead was far from
decisive, it offered the Sagehens an opportunity to
press home their advantage and use the momentum from the first half to pull away from the Tommies. P-P looked to do just that by scoring the first
five points of the second half, as they seemed on the verge of taking a
potentially unassailable lead. The Tommies, however, showed their competitive
spirit and began to work their way back into the contest.

Spearheaded by the offensive
efforts of Conner Nord, Taylor Montero and Zach Riedeman, the visitors, aided
by some sloppy attacking play by the Sagehens, cut into the deficit. When
Cortez Tillman hit an ambitious three-point shot with a little under seven
minutes gone in the second, St. Thomas only trailed by one point, 47-46, and P-P was in
desperate need of a momentum shift. Despite the Tommies’ new-found offensive rhythm, P-P eventually resettled into a more attacking groove themselves.

Moss continued to be the Sagehens’ main scoring threat. His solid ball control and perceptive shot selection gave
him consistent open looks, although he also displayed a couple of delicate
finishes close to the rim while under pressure. An 11-4 run saw P-P move to a
58-50 lead with 10 minutes to go. Nordale and Jake Klewer PO ’14 were among the other
Sagehen players who more than ably complemented the second-half scoring
exploits of Moss, and, as the game began to reach the home stretch, P-P appeared to be in control.

The home team led 72-59 with five
minutes left, meaning St. Thomas would need to manufacture a big turnaround, and
relatively quickly, to give themselves a chance at the win. Unluckily for the Sagehens,
the Tommies did just that, with Marcus Alipate and Erik Tengwall among the
visiting players to nab crucial buckets in the final few minutes. A Nord layup
with just under two minutes left made the score just 77-75 in P-P’s favor, and
a late comeback looked to be in the cards, much to the consternation of a tense home
crowd. The pressure of closing out a late-game result seemed to unnerve the
players as well, with both teams squandering two possessions each in quick

The all-but-decisive points were registered by Nordale, who sunk a pair of free throws with
30 seconds left to give the Sagehens a four-point lead, a cushion upon which
they rode to victory. P-P players can be justifiably proud of such a result to
open the season, with the win against a nationally ranked side signaling their
intentions for their conference season, where they will hope to contend for a
postseason place. Moss (24 points), Weiss (18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists),
and Nordale (15 points in his first college game) were among the standout
performers for the Sagehens.

Unfortunately, P-P was unable to
make it two wins to start the season, as they lost on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at Biola University.
Klewer (18 points, 11 rebounds), Nordale (11 points) and Michael Cohen PO ’15 (17 points) all impressed for the Sagehens, but a late Biola run led by nine
straight points from Dakari Archer dropped P-P to 1-1 for the season. Although it was a disappointing result after their rousing
home-opener triumph, the Sagehens will be confident of reverting to winning
ways as they travel to Westmont College on Saturday, Nov. 23.

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