Claremont, Calif. – Freshman guard Kyle McAndrews (Seattle, Wash.) figured to have a tough time coming up with an encore after his three game-winning foul shots with 0.4 seconds left on Tuesday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. But he may have pulled it off by scoring 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half to lead the Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team to a 60-53 win over Whittier in the SCIAC semifinals on Friday evening at Voelkel Gymnasium to set up a rematch with the Stags tomorrow night.
With the win second-seeded Pomona-Pitzer improves to 16-9 overall and advances to the SCIAC championship game tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., a rematch at top-seeded and 11th-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, which defeated fourth-seeded Redlands today in the other semifinal. Whittier sees its season end at 18-8, which included an 0-3 mark against the Sagehens.
It appeared early that Pomona-Pitzer might have a tough time advancing. After taking a 2-0 lead a minute into the game, the Sagehens did not score a point for over eight minutes, as Whittier jumped ahead 7-2. The Poets took a 20-8 lead with 3:23 left in the half, at which point Pomona-Pitzer was just 2-20 from the floor and struggling to get any sort of good look at the basket against a stifling Whittier defense.
Pomona-Pitzer, though, responded with a pivotal 10-0 run in the closing minutes of the half to take all the momentum into the locker room. McAndrews started the run with a pair of foul shots, and senior guard Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash.) stepped up with several clutch plays in a row, including a steal, an offensive rebound, a driving lay-up, and two foul shots to make the score 20-14 and get the Sagehens' feet back underneath them.
A tough McAndrews jumper capped off the run and made it 20-18, but Whittier took some momentum back with a three-pointer from Kelly Johnson just before the halftime buzzer, making it 23-18 in favor of the Poets.
McAndrews kept the hot hand going, though, and buried a three-pointer on the first possession of the second half, then tied the game at 23-23 with a 19-foot jumper. After Whittier answered with a three-pointer, McAndrews buried a three-pointer two possessions later to give the Sagehens a 28-26 lead, their first since 2-0.
The momentum continued until Pomona-Pitzer went ahead 35-28 with 11:22 to play on a McAndrews foul shot, but in a game that featured lots of scoring runs from each side, Whittier and its starting line-up of five seniors wasn't going to go down with a fight. Sure enough, the Poets took all the momentum back and went on a 9-0 run to take a 37-35 lead, keyed by two steals from reserve guard Jordan Ramos, the second of which set up the go-ahead basket from Greg Preer with 9:14 to go, making the score 37-35.
Zahniser had a modest night on paper with nine points, but his points came at huge times to stop Whittier runs, and he stepped up once again with a driving lay-up to tie the score at 37-37. A Preer lay-up gave Whittier the lead back, and after Pomona-Pitzer's Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.) with 4:53 to go put the Sagehens ahead 43-39, the game shifted from wild momentum swings into a back-and-forth slug fest.
Senior Drew Menez, who picked up his fourth foul on the first possession of the second half and had to sit for 10 minutes, scored five straight points for Whittier to put the Poets back in front 44-43. Sophomore forward Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.) answered for the Sagehens, but Menez hit another baseline jumper to put Poets in front 46-45. Freshman forward Jack Klukas (Eden Prairie, Minn.) knocked down a three-pointer off a Cohen feed to make it 48-46, but Menez scored yet again to tie the score 48-48 with 3:05 left, capping off a stretch in which he scored nine straight Poet points.
McAndrews, though, made two more pressure packed foul shots to give Pomona-Pitzer the lead for good at 50-48 with 2:38 left, and then Klukas grabbed a defensive rebound and buried a three-pointer to make it 53-48 with 1:54 to go. After Whittier made one of two foul shots, the Sagehens came up with two big offensive rebounds, including a John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) grab off a missed foul shot, and eventually Whittier had to foul with 53 seconds left. McAndrews made both to push the lead to 56-49, and then sealed the game with two more foul shots with 23 seconds left to cap off the scoring and send Pomona-Pitzer on to the championship game.
Klukas joined McAndrews in double figures with 12 points (nine in the second half, including two big three-pointers), and added eight rebounds. Klewer had nine points and 10 rebounds (nine defensive). Menez led Whittier with 16 points, but none of his teammates were in double figures as the Poets had their third straight rough shooting night from the perimeter against the Sagehens. In the two regular season meetings, Whittier shot just 4-41 from three-point territory combined, and the Poets weren't much better in their third try, shooting just 4-21 on Friday evening.
The two previous meetings between Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps both came down to less than a second remaining. In the first meeting at Pomona-Pitzer on Jan. 18, Klukas hit a three-pointer to tie the game 55- with six seconds left, but CMS' Remy Pinson went coast to coast for the winning basket with 0.5 left. On Tuesday at CMS, Pinson hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to put the Stags up by two, but McAndrews was fouled shooting a three-pointer and made all three shots with 0.4 left to give Pomona-Pitzer the split.