Stags Stymied at NCAA Tournament

This week, after both the Stags and the Athenas captured
SCIAC championships, the two squads headed to the Division III NCAA
Championships hoping to extend their seasons. The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s
basketball team (22-7, 12-4 SCIAC) traveled to Marshall, Texas March 6 to face
off against Texas Lutheran University (18-10). The Stags put forth a solid all-around effort and beat the Bulldogs 79-55 for head coach Ken Scalmanini’s 300th
career victory.

“We just
kept playing really hard and were able to get good shots on offense because we
were able to move the ball and get into the flow of our motion offense,” guard
Tyler Gaffaney CGU said. “We were able to make extra passes, get open
looks and be aggressive against their defense, which was being aggressive
against us. We were also able to get some back door cuts and we were able to
knock down any open shots we had.”

After scoring only three points in the first half, Gaffaney exploded for 20 second-half
points to push the Stags to victory. With the Stags only leading 30-24 after the first
half, Gaffaney scored the first five points of the second to give CMS the
momentum they would never relinquish.

“I think
being a threat in multiple ways is helpful,” Gaffaney said. “If the defender
sags off me I have the confidence to shoot, and if they get tight on me I feel
like I can go around them. I’ve never been a natural volume scorer; I’ve always
wanted to do it efficiently because efficient scoring is what’s going to help
your team win.  So if I don’t have an
open shot I can pass it to my teammates and I have complete confidence that they
are going to make it.”

Forward Jason Harrington CM ’16 also delivered a strong performance for
CMS, totaling 14 points on the game, including three straight three-pointers
midway through the second half to extend the Stags’ lead and help the team
cruise to victory.

“We just executed extremely well in the
first round,” forward Christian Mkpado CM ’15 said. “Our defensive execution
was near perfect for playing a team that we had never played before. We knew
their sets and adapted quickly. It was an all-around team effort.” 

However,
the Stags came up against a tough opponent in East Texas Baptist University (25-5)
in the second round and, after a close battle, eventually fell to the Tigers
80-75.

Gaffaney
broke down what made ETBU such a tough opponent.

“They kept playing really
aggressive defense,” he said. “Their guards were good shooters so we couldn’t
double their posts. Also, in the second half they went zone a lot more and we
started missing more open threes. The
problem is that you have to make shots against the zone to open up the middle and
we weren’t able to knock them down.”

CMS shot well in the first half and
took a 45-37 lead into halftime, but the Tigers battled back in the second half
to force a back-and-forth game. Then, with 16 seconds left in the game,
Harrington nailed a three to cut the ETBU lead to three. On the next inbound play, forward Jack Ely CM ’18 stole the ball to give the Stags the chance to
tie, but Gaffaney’s last chance heave fell short and the Tigers emerged
victorious.

“I don’t think ETBU played any
better in the second half than in the first half; the main difference was our
inability to get the ball in the hoop during the second half,” Gaffaney said. “We
were executing well on offense and getting open shots, but those shots were
just not falling for us the way that they had in the first half.”

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