Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team ended their tough season on a high note Feb. 24, putting in a strong second-half performance to pull away
from Whittier College with a 71-62 win. P-P (10-15, 8-8 SCIAC) entered
the mid-week game after having seen their chances of progression to the
post-season evaporate after a Feb. 21 loss to the University of Redlands.
“We have got to give a lot of credit to Redlands, they shot the ball incredibly well in the second half,” assistant coach Scott Waterman said. “We played a good half defensively but they shot really well.”
With playoffs out of the picture, the team viewed the Whittier game as a chance to send off the seniors on a positive note after
a season blighted with injuries. Even with the injury struggles the Sagehens faced earlier in the year, the seniors have been the driving force of the team since November.
“Relationships are all about trust and respect,” head coach Charles Katsiaficas said, recalling the leadership of his senior corps earlier in the season. “Over time you hope to strengthen those bonds and have them become mutual. I believe that is the case with all five of our seniors: Kyle, AB, Joe, Michael, and Jesse.”
The Sagehens started
well, with guard Adrian Brandon PZ ’15 coming out with
intent. Brandon was on his way to notching a fine first-half double-double,
coming just short after foul trouble forced him to sit out the final third of
the first half.
With the game hanging in the balance, the other Sagehen seniors came up big, with a flurry of
scoring shots from guards Michael Cohen PO ’15 and Kyle McAndrews PO ’15, including a
last-second three-pointer by the latter which narrowed the Poets’ lead to 33-32 going into halftime.
The Sagehens seemed to take some momentum from their solid end
to the half, and started the second half where they had left off. P-P scored the first six points of the half to go up 38-33. With the encounter still a
tight one, the dynamic of the match changed with the introduction of guard Joe Eyen
PZ ’15, another one of the Sagehen senior brigade. Eyen’s minutes were limited
in the first half, which he ended with just a single three-point field goal, but that shot turned out to be an indicator of things to come in the
Having found his shooting
range, Eyen showed devastating form from downtown. With McAndrews continuing to
plug away in the lane, Eyen found sufficient space and time to sink five more
three-pointers in the second half, taking his total to 18 points on six three-pointers made, both career highs.
Whittier was simply unable to match the Sagehens’ scoring
streak. Eyen’s final bucket of the night came with just under
three minutes remaining, stretching the home team’s lead to 69-58. A late rally from Whittier was not
forthcoming, and the game petered out to a 71-62 triumph for the Sagehens.
Eyen’s explosive night grabbed plenty of attention, he was not the only
senior to have a big impact on the game. McAndrews, who has arguably been the
Sagehens’ best performer this season, ended with a season-high 29 points, including a cold-blooded seven-for-seven from the free throw
line. Brandon led
the team in rebounds with 10, while Cohen led in assists with six.
The final senior, Jesse Medina
PO ’15 (who walked onto the team after competing for the P-P track and field
squad), was less involved in the game, although he did receive a few minutes at
the end of the game to round out his own collegiate basketball career.
Forward Gibson Farone-Collins PO ’16 highlighted the powerful impact that each senior had on their teammates.
“Whether it was Jesse pushing us in the weight room, Adrian flying around on defense, Kyle attacking the basket, Joe hitting threes or Mike making plays for his teammates, these guys had a huge impact on our team this year, and for the three years that I have been here,” Farone-Collins said. “They do a great job pushing themselves and the younger guys to be the best basketball players they can be. Off the court they’ve been great at building a strong team dynamic and have been great friends to me and everyone else on the team. They’ve meant a ton to this program and will definitely be missed.”
With the win, the Sagehens finish with a .500 record in SCIAC play, a winning
percentage that could have been better had a spate of injuries not
caused the team to go on a damaging losing streak from mid-December to
mid-January. Plenty of young talent means the Sagehens will be hopeful for next
season, but the departing seniors will leave big shoes to fill. Having
contributed 3,000 points total in the last four years, including 1,365 points
from McAndrews and 1,026 from Cohen, this class of P-P senior basketball players
can leave the court knowing they have left quite a secure legacy.
Waterman encapsulated the impact the group had on the P-P program.
“They went out for four years, played as hard as they could [and] did everything to maintain the progress the program was having,” Waterman said. “They did it on a nightly basis.”