Claremont, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team jumped out to an early 12-0 lead, but Cal Lutheran was able to come back and steal a 47-46 win over the Sagehens on Wednesday night at Voelkel Gymnasium.
The loss was a crucial one for the Sagehens, as they fall to 12-8 overall and 7-3 in the SCIAC, two games behind first-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps with four to play. Pomona-Pitzer closes out the regular season with a road game at CMS on Feb. 21, but now has to hope that the Stags lose at least once to have a chance at earning the top seed. The Sagehens are still in excellent shape to qualify for the SCIAC Tournament, but will likely need at least one more win in its last four to secure a bid (the top four qualify).
Cal Lutheran, meanwhile, improves to 8-12 overall and 4-6 in the SCIAC and keeps their postseason hopes alive. The Kingsmen also avenged an earlier 61-56 home loss to Pomona-Pitzer back on Jan. 7.
The Sagehens twice had some bad breaks in a tie game in the final minute of regulation to help set up a winning foul shot from Aaron Van Klaveren (12 points, 15 rebounds) with 1.3 seconds left. Senior guard Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash. - pictured) tied the score for Pomona-Pitzer at 46-46 with a 15-foot jumper with 1:07 to play, capping off a team-high 13-point night (on 5-7 shooting), but the Sagehens would not see the ball again.
Cal Lutheran worked the shot clock down, and sophomore forward John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) stepped around Van Klaveren to steal a low post feed. He was able to pull the ball in, but his momentum carried him out of bounds with six seconds left on the shot clock and 35.8 left on the game clock. After a brief huddle, the officials ruled that Weiss had possession before falling out of bounds, and re-set the shot clock to allow the Kingsmen to hold for one.
Cal Lutheran ran the clock down and Jayvaughn Nettles attempted a 15-footer runner along the left baseline that missed, and the rebound kicked out into the middle of the paint. Freshman forward Jack Klukas (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was first to the ball and could only get one hand on it, and tipped it back towards the foul line. The ball found its way into Van Klaveren's hands, who attempted to grab it and shoot a fadeaway in one motion. Klukas, who was still pursuing the rebound, had his momentum carry him into Van Klaveren as he was shooting, resulting in the foul with 1.3 seconds left.
Van Klaveren made the first foul shot to break the tie, and then missed the second on purpose to try to kill a little bit of time off the clock. The Sagehens got the defensive rebound and called timeout with 1.0 seconds, but had to throw the ball the length of the floor. Klukas tried to throw a long baseball pass, but Van Klaveren, who was guarding the inbounds, was able to tip it, resulting in a turnover as the clock expired.
The game never looked like it would come down to the final seconds, as Pomona-Pitzer roared out to a 12-0 lead out of the chute, and led by as many as 13 points on two occasions, the last coming at 26-13 in the final minute of the first half. Cal Lutheran was able to make the last two baskets of the first stanza to get a little bit of momentum going into the break at 26-17, but the Sagehens were able to build their lead back up to 35-23 with 12:21 to go on a three-point play from sophomore forward Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.).
A three-pointer from Steven Davis got the Kingsmen back within 35-28 with 10:45 to go, and after freshman guard Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.) made two foul shots, Cal Lutheran went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 37-37 on a jumper from Collin Knudsen.
Cohen answered with a driving lay-up, but another Davis three-pointer gave the Kingsmen their first lead of the game at 40-39 with 5:04 to go. The teams then traded baskets down the stretch, with a Davis jumper putting the Kingsmen in front, a Weiss jumper giving the lead back to the Sagehens, a driving lay-up from Nettles putting Cal Lutheran ahead 44-43 with 1:56 to go, one foul shot from Zahniser tying the score, and two foul shots from Mike Harris giving the Kingsmen a 46-44 lead, setting up the tying Zahniser jumper.
Van Klaveren and Zahniser were the only players in double figures for either team as the defenses were impenetrable on both ends of the floor. Cal Lutheran shot just 30.6 percent for the game (15-49), while Pomona-Pitzer was only 34.0 percent (18-53), including 1-13 from three-point territory.
The Sagehens return to action on Saturday, with a road game at La Verne.