November 19, 2011

Sagehens Push Defending Champs To Brink, But Fall In Double-Overtime

Claremont, Calif. – The Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team led defending national champion St. Thomas (Minn.) by seven points with just over two minutes in regulation (and by five with 30 seconds left), but could not hold on as it fell 82-79 in double overtime on Saturday evening in its season opener at Voelkel Gymnasium.
 
The Tommies start their season out 2-0 after beating Occidental on Friday in their season opener.

The Sagehens were led  by sophomore forward Jake Klewer (Tuscon, Ariz. - pictured), who had 23 points on 10-14 shooting, and freshman guard Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.) who had 21 points on 7-10 shooting. They both had contested three-point shots to win the game, but Cohen was unable to connect at the end of regulation, and Klewer missed after a coast-to-coast rush in the final four seconds of the first overtime.

It did not appear that the Sagehens would need a buzzer-beater, as they led 62-55 with 2:17 to go on a tip-in from sophomore forward John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio). After St. Thomas got back within 62-59, Weiss scored ahead on a hit-ahead pass from Cohen on a press break to make the score 64-59.

The Sagehens earned a stop and went to the line to shoot a one-and-one, but senior Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash.) missed the front end. St. Thomas made one of two at the line to cut to 64-60 with 27 seconds left, and once again the Sagehens were unable to convert at the line. Zach Riedeman then drew a foul and flipped in a wild circus shot from 10 feet after drawing contact to cut the lead to two with 18 seconds left.

Riedeman missed the ensuing foul shot, but Connor Nord was able to out-scrap the Sagehens for the loose ball on the rebound, and Tommy Hannon worked free for the tying lay-up with 11 seconds left. Cohen had an off-balance three at the buzzer that came up short as the game went to overtime.

Weiss knocked down a big three-pointer in the first overtime to put the Sagehens ahead by three, and Klewer had a pretty baseline spin move for a finger-roll lay-up to make the score 71-68 with 3:11 left. Pomona-Pitzer was unable to score again in the first overtime, though, and a three-pointer from John Nance tied it up for the Tommies with 1:12 left.

St. Thomas then got the ball back with a three-second differential, and worked the shot clock down to the final seconds before the ball was knocked free out of Riedeman's hands. Pomona-Pitzer came up with the loose ball and hit it ahead to Klewer, who rushed the length of the court and took a 24-footer at the buzzer, but it did not connect as the game went to a second overtime.

A three-pointer from Will DeBerg put St. Thomas ahead 76-71 with three minutes left in the second overtime, but this time the Sagehens responded with a comeback. Zahniser made a difficult twisting lay-up in traffic, and Cohen followed with back-to-back jumpers around two Nance foul shots to make the score 78-77. After Weiss picked up a steal near midcourt, Greg Wright (Oakland, Calif.) had a baseline jumper rim in-and-out with 35 seconds left that would have put the Sagehens in front, but instead they were forced to foul with the shot clock turned off.

DeBerg made both to push the lead to three, but Po Grant (Brookline, Mass.) was fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left to give Pomona-Pitzer one final chance. Grant made the first, but had the second one rim out before hitting the third to make the score 80-79. The Sagehens, out of timeouts, tried to press, but Nord got behind the defense for a long home-run pass and laid it in with one second left to finish off the scoring.

Cohen had a key role in getting the Sagehens back in the game after St. Thomas took its largest lead at 42-33 with 12:31 to play. After a Klewer lay-up, Cohen hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to make the score 42-41. A Zahniser three-pointer with 6:18 left gave the Sagehens their first lead of the second half at 52-49, and a Weiss three-pointer with 2:54 pushed the lead to 60-55, before his tip-in gave the Sagehens their largest lead at 62-55 with 2:17 to go.

Weiss had 12 points on 5-6 shooting for the Sagehens, who shot 50 percent from the floor as a team (31-62). DeBerg led St. Thomas with 20 points, all of which came after halftime, including 8-8 at the foul line. Riederman finished with 19 points on 7-10 shooting for the Tommies, while Nance added 15 and Hannon chipped in with 14.

Pomona-Pitzer will be back in action next weekend at the David Wells Classic, taking on Dominican (Ill.) at 7 p.m. on Friday at home, and St. Olaf on Saturday at 5 p.m. at CMS.