As Gibson Farone-Collins PO ’16 heaved a full court shot for the Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team (10-12, 5-9 SCIAC) in a last-minute effort to tie up the Sixth Street rivalry game and complete the sweep against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags (12-10, 7-7 SCIAC), the Sagehen crowd watched with eager anticipation. The ball made contact with the rim, clunked around for a split second, and then bounced out.
Just like that, the dream was over: The energy and excitement that had entered Voelkel Gymnasium with the prospect that the Sagehens could sweep CMS left almost instantaneously. Sagehens came just out of reach of achieving their goal of sweeping their Claremont rivals. For the sixth consecutive season, P-P found itself either ending the regular season in a split or being swept by the Stags. The last time that the Sagehens swept CMS was in the ’09-’10 season, when they won each of the regular season meetings decisively by double digits.
With their first loss against CMS this season, Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball also finds itself out of the running for playoff contention as they have now sunk to eighth place in the SCIAC conference. As Ammar Kurdmisto PZ ’17 explains, “We’re obviously disappointed that we lost the game. It was a close game all the way through. I don’t think we had any big weaknesses down the stretch—sometimes, the bounces go the right way and other times they just don’t.”
With this point, Kurdmisto hits the hammer on the nail: Basketball is a very volatile sport where momentum shifts back and forth in the blink of an eye, especially when the opponent is playing smothering defense throughout the game.
According to Kurdmisto, “the team felt as though we played the first half” going into the locker room at halftime. “Heading into the locker room tied, the main focus was to devise a strategy that would allow us to get some separation so that we could get clear shots at the basket,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Sagehens, the Stags buckled down defensively on the perimeter, which prevented the Sagehens from getting clear looks at the basket. As a result, P-P was forced to drive to the paint and chuck up shots. For both teams, there were a lot of fans that came out to support their respective teams in this rivalry game, which made the atmosphere reminiscent of high school playoffs game that would always be packed to the rafters.
When asked about the how the large attendance of both P-P and CMS supporters and students affected the game, Kurdmisto said, “It’s always nice to have support from the crowd. You can really feel the extra energy in the gym.”
The Sagehens fought hard and played a thrilling game until the bitter end. This week wasn’t all heartbreak for P-P: They defeated the Occidental College Tigers in their season series with a resounding 64-58 win. For CMS, with this energizing win to extend their win streak to four games, they find themselves ranked third in SCIACs.
“After losing the first game to Pomona-Pitzer, we were definitely hungry for revenge,” Michael Scarlett CM ’18 said. “So, to win part two of the rivalry was a great boost for us. Seeing as we have come this far, even with all the injuries we have sustained throughout the season, I think we have a great chance to make the playoffs.”
Monday’s game showed that CMS has grit and grind, even when stacked against an offensively gifted team such as Pomona-Pitzer. CMS followed up this victory by sweeping the California Lutheran University Kingsmen in a 63-58 home victory.
As the Stags take on Chapman University (17-5, 11-3 SCIAC) and Redlands University (11-12, 7-7 SCIAC), this upcoming week, they have a tough path to the SCIAC playoffs. But Scarlett strongly believes CMS can clinch the post-season. The Stags will try to give their big players more touches, and feed the ball to the high post so that they could kick it out to the shooters in pursuit of a SCIAC playoff spot.