Underdogs No More: McAndrews, Sagehens Too Much for Stags

Heading into last Saturday, the Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps basketball teams had been on a collision course for weeks. CMS had won their last 10 games, and a win over P-P would have helped solidify a home-court advantage in the SCIAC tournament. In the meantime, P-P was putting together a streak of their own, winning 10 of their last 11 games. When the two teams finally met Saturday, Feb. 8, on the Sagehens’ home court, P-P emerged victorious, beating out the Stags 64-57.

Before tip-off, even during the national anthem, one could hear heckling and yells from both the CMS and P-P student sections. Packed bleachers with rows of rowdy fans were brimming with energy. The Sagehens won the opening tip of the game and John Weiss PO ’14 quickly scored on a smooth drive to the rim. The P-P fans erupted in cheers. A quick jump shot answer by Remy Pinson CM ’14 shifted the cheering energy to the CMS section.

Though an important rivalry game with a loud atmosphere, the players seemed unfazed. It was solid defense, not nervousness, from both sides that kept the game close in the early going. The referees were letting the players be physical, only calling a combined three fouls in the first 10 minutes of game time.

A short P-P run driven by two three-pointers from Michael Cohen PO ’15 pushed the lead to six, but CMS, and particularly Pinson, came storming back. Pinson scored the first 12 points of the game for CMS and ended with 28 for the day. The game began to settle down and the crowd quieted a little, until a dunk by Jake Klewer PO ’14 with 9:37 remaining revitalized the P-P side.

With the Sagehens unable to establish Kyle McAndrews PO ’15 in any kind of offensive rhythm, they looked elsewhere for scoring. Cohen sank another three to give P-P a six-point lead, but CMS turned up the intensity. Richard Harris CM ’16 snagged two offensive rebounds in one possession, leading to a three-pointed from Tyler Gaffaney CM ’14. The CMS fans fed off of the players’ energy, exploding in cheers as he sank the shot. 

During the next two possessions, Cohen and Gaffaney sank dueling threes that kept the game close and had the crowd’s intensity high. With the game tied and eight seconds left in the half, the Sagehens inbounded the ball to Cohen. He delivered a 60-foot pass to McAndrews, who sank the buzzer-beater for his first bucket, sending the P-P team into the locker room with a three-point lead and a cheering fan section.

The second half picked up the intensity: The players were scrappy with each other, the coaches were vocal with the referees, and students from all schools were jawing with each other. The game was back and forth for the first 10 minutes.

Suddenly, the shots that McAndrews had been taking all game started to fall. He converted a layup, two stepback jumpers, and another jump shot, tallying eight points in a 10-0 run by P-P. The Sagehen crowd grew louder with each make. 

Of this stretch, McAndrews said that in the first half, his shots were not failing. 

“I tried to stay confident and keep working hard, and I was fortunate that I was able to make more shots and help my team in the second half,” he said. 

An eight-point lead with five minutes left proved insurmountable for the Stags as they eventually resorted to fouling. Efficient play from Gibson Farone-Collins PO ’16 (10 points) and Weiss (14 points, seven rebounds), as well as electrifying plays from Klewer, complemented the scoring prowess of Cohen and McAndrews, and sealed the victory for P-P.  

Players said they enjoyed the rivalry and the larger crowds that came with it.

“I didn’t really know about it coming in,” Cohen said, “but I remember my freshman year, fans packed, like, before the game even started, and it’s just been probably the most fun game in my life to play in.”

“It feels great to protect home court in front of a bunch of fans,” McAndrews said. 

Fans on both sides can only hope that they will get to experience this again with a rematch of these two teams in the SCIAC tournament. With the kind of basketball both teams are playing, that hope might just come true.

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