The Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team (14-11, 12-4 SCIAC) picked up a big 61-47 win over Occidental College (19-6, 12-4 SCIAC) at home Saturday.
It was senior night for the Sagehens, and Hiawatha Davis PZ ’18, Jack Gale PO ’18, and Glenn Leininger PZ ’18 were all honored before the game.
Strong defense was key for P-P; the Tigers shot only 37 percent from the field in their lowest scoring output of the season. Offensively, the Sagehens were led by Adam Rees PO ’20 and Daniel Rosenbaum PO ’19, who each had 14 points.
Both teams struggled with shooting the ball in the first half, but P-P was still able to open up a controlling lead over the Tigers. With five minutes left in the half, a three-pointer by Rees put them ahead 25-10.
At halftime, the score was 27-15; the Sagehens shot an abysmal 26 percent, but the Tigers were even worse at 20 percent. Both teams knew they needed to play more strategically in the second half and get easy looks at the basket.
“We never let them get comfortable and made everything tough for them offensively,” Rees said. “All of their shots were contested and we rebounded the ball very well.”
Occidental’s shooting woes had to come to an end eventually, and coming out of halftime the team began to redeem itself. In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, the Tigers scored more points than they had in the entire first, pulling to within six of the Sagehens.
While the Tigers mounted their comeback, P-P continued to create open shots and work hard on the glass. The Sagehens outrebounded Occidental 49-30 and their 18 offensive boards led to 15 second-chance points, far more than Oxy’s two.
As the half wore on, the Sagehens kept the Tigers at bay, holding onto a small double-digit advantage. The teams traded baskets, yet Oxy was unable to cut into the lead.
“I feel like we were really moving the ball well and passing up good looks for great shots,” said Rees, who shot a scorching 80 percent from beyond the arc.
With under a minute remaining and the game already decided, the three seniors took the court for the Sagehens, greeted by applause from both fans and teammates.
“It is definitely not just about basketball with this team,” Leininger said. “Everybody I have met who has coached, played, or been involved with the program here is a quality person, and when you have people like that, it is easy to go out on the court and go to battle with them.”
The game held big playoff implications for both teams: It was already guaranteed that P-P and Oxy would play each other in the first round of the SCIAC postseason tournament, but home court advantage was still up for grabs. Despite the Sagehens’ win, the Tigers still controlled their own destiny, and by beating Redlands in their final game of the year, Occidental clinched the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
The two teams will face off in the playoffs with their seasons going in different directions. The Sagehens have now won 12 of their last 14 games and are playing their best basketball of the season. Saturday’s 14-point loss was Occidental’s largest of the year; the Tigers have dropped four of their last seven.
“We just need to keep playing our brand of basketball, continue to execute on both ends of the floor, and bring our competitive spirit,” Leininger said.
The final meeting of the year between the two teams will take place Friday at Occidental. If the Sagehens get the win on the road, they could potentially meet top-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (17-7, 15-1 SCIAC) in the conference championship, which would take place Saturday at Roberts Pavilion.