Orange, Calif. – The Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team fought off several second-half challenges from Chapman to capture a 51-44 win and maintain sole possession of third place in the SCIAC standings on Wednesday evening.
The win improves Pomona-Pitzer to 13-7 overall and 8-4 in the SCIAC, a two-game lead over Chapman at 6-6 (11-10 overall) with four games left to play. Chapman could have pulled even with the Sagehens for third place with a win, but instead slip into a three-way tie for fourth with La Verne and Whittier at 6-6.
The top four teams in the conference receive bids to the postseason tournament and the Sagehens now are two games clear of the pack of teams in fourth place (and have a tiebreaker with Chapman due to a sweep of the season series).
The first half was a defensive struggle, but the Sagehens were able to take a 27-21 lead into the break with solid bench production. Senior forward Donald Okpalugo (Manchester, England - pictured) had six points to lead the Sagehens at the half, including back-to-back baskets to give them their largest lead at 27-19, before Chapman scored the final basket of the half.
Chapman was able to get the lead down to 33-31 on a three-pointer from Brendon Rider, but Okapulgo answered with a drive to start an 8-0 run, which was capped off by a lay-up from junior forward John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) with 9:48 left.
However, Jordan Young made two straight three-pointers on the next two possessions to quickly get the lead back down to 41-37. Sophomore guard Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif.) answered back with a three-pointer to get the lead back to seven, but once again Chapman fought back and pulled within three points at 46-43 with 4:51 left on a Rider baseline jumper.
The Sagehens, though, would push the lead back to five when Cohen found junior forward Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.) rolling to the basket after a screen for a lay-up. Pomona-Pitzer would then hold Chapman to just one point over the final five minutes, as it managed to prevent one final Panther rally.
Klewer had a pair of big rebounds, one in traffic on the defensive end to secure possession up 48-44 with just under two minutes left, and then one on the offensive end moments later to extend a Sagehen possession and force Chapman to foul. Cohen made both ends of a one-and-one with 52 seconds left to make the score 50-44, and Chapman was unable to threaten the rest of the way.
Klewer finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Okpalugo had 10 points on 5-6 shooting to go along with five boards to provide the Sagehens with key bench production in a low scoring game. Cohen added nine points, while freshman forward Joe Knight (Seattle, Wash.) continued his strong play in his third collegiate game with six points on 3-3 shooting.
Jordan Young had a game high 12 points for Chapman on 4-5 shooting from three-point territory, but was the only Panther player to reach double figures.
Pomona-Pitzer will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to Cal Lutheran for a 7 p.m. contest before returning home on Wednesday for the big home showdown with inter-consortium rivals Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Voelkel Gymnasium.