Thousand Oaks, Calif. – Freshman forward Jack Klukas (Eden Prairie, Minn.) had a key lay-up on the offensive end and a key rebound on the defensive end in the final 1:09 of regulation as the Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team held on after letting a big lead slip away and captured a 61-56 road win over Cal Lutheran in its SCIAC opener on Saturday evening at Gilbert Arena.
The Sagehens improve to 6-5 overall and 1-0 in the SCIAC with the win, while Cal Lutheran falls to 4-7 and 0-1 with the loss. Pomona-Pitzer was led by freshman guard Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.) with 14 points, while sophomore forward John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Pomona-Pitzer lost all of a 15-point lead in the second half in a span of five minutes. Martin Flowers scored the final eight Cal Lutheran points in an 18-3 run that turned a 45-30 Sagehen lead with 10:05 left into a 48-48 tie with 5:13 remaining.
The Kingsmen could not take the lead, though, as senior guard Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash.) had a driving lay-up for the Sagehens to break the tie and made one of two foul shots on the next possession. Cohen and Weiss each added two more foul shots to stretch the lead to 55-48.
However, Flowers continued to keep the pressure on as he hit a three-pointer and two foul shots to bring the Kingsmen within 57-55, capping off a stretch in which he scored 15 straight points for Cal Lutheran. Klukas, though, came up with the biggest shot of the game when he made a baseline cut and took a pass from Cohen for a driving lay-up with 1:09 left.
Klukas had one more big play in him as Xavier Walton hit the first of two foul shots for Cal Lutheran with 18 seconds left to make the score 59-56. The second free throw was missed, and the rebound was batted high in the air with Cal Lutheran in position to secure a key offensive rebound. Klukas, though, came flying in from out of nowhere to pull the ball in and was able to pass the ball ahead, enabling Pomona-Pitzer to kill 12 key seconds off the clock while the Kingsmen tried to foul.
Weiss was finally fouled with six seconds remaining and hit both foul shots to seal the win and secure his double-double with his tenth point. Cal Lutheran missed a harmless three-pointer at the buzzer, leaving a five-point final spread.
The Sagehens never trailed in the entire game, as they took a 27-16 lead into the break after very nearly holding Cal Lutheran without a single field goal over the last 10 minutes. After an Aaron Van Klaveren jumper for Cal Lutheran made the score 10-8 with exactly 10 minutes to play, the Kingsmen did not make another shot from the floor until a 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer from Ryan Benson.
Pomona-Pitzer held Cal Lutheran to just 4-20 shooting from the first half, including 1-9 on threes, with the only make the desperation three at the halftime buzzer.
The Kingsmen kept the momentum going in the second half and crawled all the way back to within 32-28, but Pomona-Pitzer answered with a 13-2 run. Senior R.J. Maki (Claremont, Calif.) stopped the run with a three-pointer, Klukas hit a shot in the lane, and Cohen burled another three-pointer to make the score 40-28.
After the Kingsmen hit an 18-footer to stop the run and get back to 40-30, Cohen hit another three and fed junior forward Donald Okpalugo (Manchester, England) for a bank shot in the paint to give Pomona-Pitzer its largest lead at 45-30.
Flowers and Michael Palmer hit back-to-back threes for the Kingsmen to push the lead under 10 points at 45-36, and Flowers capped off the 18-3 run with eight points to tie the score.
Flowers finished with 26 points on the might, while Van Klaveren had 16 points and 11 rebounds in a losing cause. Sophomore forward Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.) also was in double figures in rebounds for the Sagehens with 10, to go along with five points. The Sagehens held Cal Lutheran to just 32.0 percent shooting for the entire game (16-50).
The Sagehens will be back in action when they travel to Redlands on Wednesday for another SCIAC contest.