A Bad Case Of Deja Vu As Sagehens Fall In Final Seconds

Claremont, Calif. - The one good thing to come out of Pomona-Pitzer's 57-55 loss to Occidental on Wednesday night is that the Sagehens don't have to worry about any more Wednesday night home games.

Deshun McCoy (game-high 16 points) scored on a baseline lay-up off a feed from Jack Hanley with 3.2 seconds left in regulation to break a 55-55 tie and give Occidental the 57-55 win over the Sagehens.

Occidental improves to 10-12 overall and 6-6 in the SCIAC, remaining alive for a postseason berth, while Pomona-Pitzer falls to 13-9 and 8-4 in conference play. The Sagehens missed out on a chance to clinch a SCIAC Tournament berth, despite 15 points off the bench from freshman guard Michael Cohen (Tarzana, Calif. - pictured).

Pomona-Pitzer had three Wednesday night home games in SCIAC play this season. All three were tied in the closing seconds, and all three times, their opponents were able to come up with the winning points on their final possession.

The Wednesday night home jinx started on January 18, when freshman forward Jack Klukas (Eden Prairie, Minn.) hit a three-pointer to tie Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 55-55, before the Stags' Remy Pinson raced coast-to-coast for the game-winning lay-up with 0.5 seconds left.

Last week, the Sagehens hosted Cal Lutheran, and senior guard Evan Zahniser (Mercer Island, Wash.) tied the score 46-46 with a baseline jumper with 1:07 left, but Cal Lutheran was able to hold for the last shot (after a shot clock reset), and Aaron Von Klavenen made the game-winning free throw after he was fouled a put-back attempt with 1.1 seconds left to secure a 47-46 victory for the Kingsmen.

This Wednesday night, the Sagehens trailed by as many as 16 in the first half (23-7 and 25-9) and came all the way back to tie the score twice, the second coming with 20.2 seconds left on a foul shot from Cohen. Once again, their opponents made the play they needed to break the tie, as Hanley took the ball inside the top of the key and fed a bounce pass to McCoy on the left baseline.

Sophomore forward John Weiss (Cleveland, Ohio) stepped into the passing lane to go for the steal, but the ball got past him safely into McCoy's hands five feet from the basket. McCoy was then able to take one quick step, and elevate to finish a lay-up in the paint over the weakside help defense from sophomore forward Jake Klewer (Tucson, Ariz.).

Pomona-Pitzer called timeout with 3.2 seconds left, and got the ball to freshman guard Kyle McAndrews (Seattle, Wash.) near midcourt, but he was only able to get to within 30 feet before letting fly with a three-pointer that hit off the left side of the rim and bounced away.

Pomona-Pitzer has now lost three home games on Wednesday night by a combined five points, all of which were tied with five seconds to play. The Sagehens have won all three of their Wednesday night road games in league play, including tough challenges at Redlands and Whittier, but are 0-3 on Wednesday night at home, accounting for three of their four league losses.

The other case of deja vu that struck the Sagehens on Wednesday was first-half shooting struggles against Occidental. The first time the teams played on Jan. 28, Pomona-Pitzer shot 3-30 from the field in the first half on its way to a 64-56 defeat. This time, the Sagehens trailed 23-7 with 5:45 left in the half after a 2-19 start from the floor (which included 17 straight misses after a 2-for-2 start), before hitting five of its last eight shots in the first half to pull within 29-21 on a three-point play from Cohen.

The second half saw Pomona-Pitzer quickly get back to within 35-31 on two foul shots from Weiss with 16:34 to play. A lay-up from Occidental's Conrad Liebowitz (14 points, 10 rebounds) pushed the Tigers lead up to 45-38 with 7:34 left, but senior guard Danny Brown (Eugene, Ore.) hit a tough three-pointer off a curl at the top of the key to get the Sagehens back within four, and then added a three-point play off an offensive rebound with 4:01 to go to tie the score up at 51-51.

However, Occidental was able to get the foul line on two straight possessions, where they were 12-13 on the day, and Nick Robinson and Kris Motoya each knocked down both to make it 55-51. McAndrews made one of two for Pomona-Pitzer, and after a stop, Cohen found Klewer with an alley-oop dunk with 1:23 left to get the Sagehens within 55-54. McAndrews came up with a key defensive rebound, and Cohen drove to the basket to draw a foul with 20.2 left, and made one of two to set up the winning basket from McCoy.

McCoy finished with a game-high 16 points on 6-8 shooting from the floor, and 4-4 shooting from the foul line. Pomona-Pitzer lost despite only committing three turnovers on the day, but it was hurt on the boards, where Occidental held a 37-26 edge.

Pomona-Pitzer can still clinch its SCIAC berth on Saturday, when it hosts second-place Whittier (9-3) in its home finale. The Sagehens are two games ahead of Occidental with two games to play, but would lose the tiebreaker between the teams due to the Tigers' head-to-head sweep.

A Sagehen win over Whittier, or an Occidental loss to first-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (11-1) on Saturday, would give Pomona-Pitzer its postseason bid. If Pomona-Pitzer loses and Occidental upsets CMS, then the Sagehens would have to win at CMS in its finale to get into the postseason.

The game will also mark the final regular season home game for the program's four seniors: Brown, Zahniser, guard R.J. Maki (Claremont, Calif.) and forward Greg Wright (Oakland, Calif.).