Dreams of a Sixth Street SCIAC tournament championship game came crashing down Friday, Feb. 28, as both the Claremont Colleges men’s basketball teams lost their final postseason games.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps suffered a narrow defeat against California Lutheran University, while Pomona-Pitzer fell 69-54 to Chapman University at home. It was P-P’s second matchup against Chapman in the last two weeks and their third of the year.
P-P won a double-overtime victory back in January, while earlier this month Chapman claimed the
rematch. In this final game of the season series, the Panthers earned the
victory—and a SCIAC finals berth—and ended the Sagehens’ season. The Panthers went on to win the SCIAC tournament crown the next night, March 1.
Kyle McAndrews PO ’15 felt that the loss was due to missing pieces in the Sagehens’ game.
“We just didn’t
bring our best game on Friday night and couldn’t take control,” he said.
McAndrews may be right.
Any control the Hens found dissipated quickly, and P-P was left scratching to
draw the score even for most of the game. Mistakes and missed opportunities plagued the Sagehens all the way to the end.
In the first half, a stagnant P-P offense
and porous defense led to a 13-point Chapman lead with nine minutes remaining.
P-P managed just nine points during this span while giving up 22. Head coach Charles Katsiaficas called a timeout and gave the Sagehens time to collect.
timeout, a re-energized Sagehen squad took the floor. Michael Cohen PO ’15
sank three free throws to start a run, which culminated in Adrian Brandon PZ ’15 making a three-pointer to end the half. Finding a way back into the game, the Sagehens entered halftime with
only a seven-point deficit.
The second half was more tightly contested from the outset. Jake Klewer PO ’14 made a free throw to cut the lead to two points with
15:12 remaining, giving the Sagehens a prime opportunity to seize the momentum and change the course of the game.
Chapman answered with an 11-5 run, but the resilient Sagehens
responded with a 9-0 run of their own to regain the lead for the first time
since leading 4-3 in the opening moments of the game. But, as McAndrews lamented,
the Sagehens just could not stay in control, and lost the lead.
A flurry of Chapman buckets gave the Panthers a nine-point lead with only three minutes remaining. To hurry possession up
and get the ball back, the Sagehens were forced to play aggressive defense, but
the strategy backfired. With one minute left, Chapman broke the Sagehen press and Colin Zavrsnick hammered
home a dunk that stretched their lead to 14.
Despite a disappointing finish, the Sagehens’ season still featured a nine-game winning streak, a second-place
SCIAC regular-season finish, and a split-season series with
McAndrews relayed Katsiaficas’ post-game
comments to the team, reiterating that the Sagehens have no reason to hang
“He talked about how challenging it is to
have a hard, long, and successful season end in what feels like an
instant,” McAndrews said. “He told us he was proud of how hard we worked, and he thanked
the seniors for all they’ve done over their careers.”
For Dan Campbell CGU ’14, Klewer, Xavyr Moss PZ ’14, and John Weiss PO ’14, the loss was the last game of their P-P careers. The Sagehens will
have a huge gap to fill, since Klewer, Moss, and Weiss all ranked in the team’s top six in terms of games played, minutes per game, assists per game, steals, blocks, rebounds, and
points per game.
Klewer was named to the Second Team All-SCIAC on Wednesday, March 5, while McAndrews was given First Team honors.
During the loss, McAndrews passed the 1,000-point mark in his Sagehen career. When asked how he felt about hitting the benchmark, McAndrews said that he “would trade it in a heartbeat for a SCIAC championship.”
P-P will have another shot at the championship next year, as their roster will retain a strong group of core
players. Alongside McAndrews, rising seniors Brandon, Cohen, and Joe Eyen PZ ’15 will look to assume larger leadership roles. Younger players such as Gibson Farone-Collins PO ’16 and Nick Nordale PZ ’17 will step into more important roles as well.