By Ryan Miller '14
Claremont, Calif. - Freshman guard Kyle McAndrews (Seattle, Wash. - pictured) was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left and made all three to give the Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team a 51-50 win over No. 11 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the regular season finale on Tuesday.
The win improves Pomona-Pitzer's record to 15-9 overall and 10-4 in the SCIAC, securing second place in SCIAC and home court advantage for the first round of the tournament on Friday night against Whittier.
With under a minute left in the game, the Sagehens had McAndrews, Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.), Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.), Jack Klukas (Eden Prairie, Minn.), and John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) in the game, giving eerie reminders of the last matchup between the 'Hens and the Stags, when that same line-up was on the floor for a wild back-and-forth finish. In that game, Klukas made a three to tie the game with five seconds left, giving the Sagehens hope until CMS's Remy Pinson drove down the court to score the game winning basket with 0.5 left in a 57-55 Stags win.
This time around, trailing 47-46 with 34.2 seconds left, the Sagehens took a timeout to best use the last seven seconds they had on the shot clock. Klewer inbounded the ball to McAndrews who drove to the rim, scoring a big basket to give Pomona-Pitzer a 48-47 lead. With the shot clock off, the Stags worked the ball around and Pinson once again came up with a big shot, making a three-pointer to give CMS the lead back at 50-48.
McAndrews received the ensuing inbounds pass with 10 seconds on the clock and drove down the side, shooting a three with 0.4 seconds left. Though the shot fell short, McAndrews was fouled by CMS, sending him to the line for three free throws and a chance to take the lead back. He calmly sunk all three from the foul line, and Weiss stole the Stags' attempt at an inbounds pass to end the game at 51-50.
Pomona-Pitzer entered the contest tied for second place with Whittier College. The Sagehens had locked either a second or third place finish in conference, assuring they'd play Whittier in the first round of the playoffs, but unsure where the game would take place.
Pomona-Pitzer struggled early to find a rhythm, and fell down by six in the first five minutes. Then John Weiss came up with two big defensive plays and the Sagehens capitalized on threes from Danny Brown (Eugene, Ore.) and Cohen to regain the lead. Cohen came into the game leading the Sagehens in scoring with 11.7 points per game, and drew double teams from the Stags.
Attacking the rim early, the Sagehens challenged the Stags' physical advantage inside. Donald Okpalugo (Manchester, Eng.) and Klukas both drew early fouls and went to the line where they shot 4-6 combined on the day.
The Sagehens and Stags then traded threes back and forth in the final minutes of the first period with neither team solidifying a lead until the Sagehens went on an 8-2 run to end the half. With 20 minutes left to play, it was the Sagehens on top 26-22. Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash.) showed strong in his final regular season game at Pomona-Pitzer shooting 2-3 from the field in the first half good for five points. He finished the game with 9 points and an assist.
The Sagehens were rattled early in the second half, committing two straight turnovers before Zahniser calmed the team back down with a driving lay-in as the shot clock expired. The Stags fired back though, tying the game at 30 all with 16:00 to play in the game.
For the next 10 minutes, neither team gained a lead of more than two points on the other. Every time one made a shot, the other answered in true keeping with a Sixth Street rivalry game.
At 37-37, Zahniser shot and barely missed a three. As the ball fell out of bounds, Klukas dove out with it, making the save and throwing it back in to Weiss for the easy lay in. The play was indicative of Klukas' play on the day. He finished with only one point, but had three assists in an impressive supporting role for the team.
Just as quickly as the Sagehens started swinging momentum back to their side of the court, Stag forward Chris Blees (game-high 22 points) took control of the game, making two easy lay ups and two free throws to open up a six-point lead with just over four minutes to play in the game. McAndrews refused to let the game slip away and answered with a three and two free throws to get the score back to 47-44.
Cohen then continued the offensive threat, burning his defender to the rim and making a difficult shot off the glass to trim the lead to one. It was then that McAndrews proved his ability in the clutch, scoring the next five points in the Sagehens' victory.
With the win, the Sagehens move to 10-4 on the season in conference and secured home court advantage against Whittier in the first round of the SCIAC tournament. CMS will be the top seed and will host Redlands in the other semifinal game on Friday, with the championship played on Saturday at the site of the highest remaining seed.