When the Sixth Street rivals squared up Saturday night in Pomona College’s Voelkel Gym, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s basketball team (15-1, 8-0 SCIAC) showed that it earned its place atop the SCIAC standings with a wire-to-wire 73-67 victory over Pomona-Pitzer (10-7, 6-2 SCIAC).
With the Sagehens trailing by 11 with about a minute left in the second half, guard Corbin Koch PO ‘19, who scored a career-high 28 points, hit back-to-back threes to cut the gap to 66-61 and give Sagehen fans something to cheer about. P-P was unable to get a stop, though, and guard Michael Scarlett CM ‘18 made 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal the win for the No. 15 nationally-ranked Stags.
“We’d love to get a steal, but we didn’t have time to do much if we didn’t get the quick steal, so just steal or foul, pretty much,” Sagehens head coach Charles Katsiaficas explained as he recalled the final minute.
“We were in a little bit of a desperation mode,” Katsiaficas said, “and we were trying to make things happen fast. We were able to make a little run at it, but when you’re having to foul and do that sort of thing, you need a little bit of Lady Luck and they made good free throws, which kept the cushion pretty safe for them.”
The sweet-shooting guard duo of Miles President HM ‘20 and Evan Davis CM ‘19 poured in a combined 35 points to lead the Stags; President’s 18 points and Davis’ 17 were both career highs. The pair combined to go 9 of 12 from beyond the arc, in some cases shaking free from a defender for just a moment before launching a perfect shot.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, but CMS consistently stayed a few points out of reach. The Stags’ offense was red-hot, but their defense was no less impressive, forcing turnovers and limiting the Sagehens’ drives to the basket, which caused P-P to take poor attempts from deep as the shot clock expired.
CMS, on the other hand, had no trouble getting into the paint. Center Kendrick Morris CM ‘18 chipped in 16 points–eight in the first half–from a combination of layups and hook shots, and was 8 of 9 from the field.
Things were looking up for the Sagehens midway through the game. Forward/center Glenn Leininger PZ ‘18 tipped the ball in right before halftime to cut the deficit to four, and guard Daniel Rosenbaum PO ‘19 kept the strong play going in the second half, making a one-handed dunk off a fast-break that brought the P-P crowd to its feet. Koch drained a 3-pointer right after to make it a 1-point game.
But the Sagehens could not consistently connect from behind the arc at the same clip as the Stags, and the President-Davis combo continued burying 3-pointers to help CMS gradually pull away.
Stags head coach Ken Scalmanini said he’s especially proud of his team considering they’re playing without injured guard Scott Lynds CM ‘17, who is averaging 14 points per game this year for the Stags.
“I think the team really battled back,” he said. “A lot of guys contributed…Evan and Miles were at the forefront of it.”
CMS will next face University of Redlands at home at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, while P-P travels to California Lutheran University at 4 p.m. the same day.