Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Basketball team bounced back from their tough loss to Caltech Saturday night in a huge way upsetting Claremont-M-S Wednesday night 76-73 inside of the Graham Athletic Center.
The Purple & Gold keep their playoff hopes alive with the win as they improve to 9-13, 6-7 SCIAC, while Claremont-M-S drops to 14-6, 8-3 SCIAC. Whittier currently sits 5th in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) standings.
It was back and forth all night with six ties and eight lead changes. Whittier shot 41% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc. They outrebounded the Stags 35-33 and picked up 19 points off turnovers. They were outscored 32-24 in the paint but had a huge help from the bench with 33 points.
Conner Longmire (Tarzana, Calif.) led the Poets with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with seven boards. Journey Shank (Burbank, Calif.) put up 14 points with a pair of rebounds, four assists and three steals, while going 4-for-6 from the field and Nick Potthoff (Phoenix, AZ) added a double double with an 11-point, 11 rebound effort. Kenyatta Louder (Compton, Calif.) was the final Poet in double figures finishing with 11 points, while hauling in seven rebounds.
A combined 15 points were scored over the first eight minutes with CMS holding an 8-7 advantage. JD Levine put up back to back triples to extend the Stag lead to 14-9 and that sparked a 9-2 CMS run that put them on top by 10 with 6:16 to play. Whittier tried to stay within striking distance with Louder, Ahmad Young (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Shank adding a pair of free throws each. But with 1:46 to play in the half, Levine struck again from deep that put CMS on top by 13. This double digit lead wouldn't hold though as Young would tack on a pair of free throws and Longmire would connect from deep that moved the deficit to single digits.
In the second half, Whittier shot lights out, going 17-for-34 from the field for a 50% clip, while going 52.9% from deep and 80% from the free-throw line. Shank, Potthoff and Longmire each added double digits within the 20-minutes that helped Whittier outscore Claremont-M-S 51-40 in the period. The difference in the second half came late where WC was able to grab a 12-point lead with 6:44 to play thanks to a 22-5 run that spanned a six-minute period. During the spurt, the Poets knocked down six triples with two coming from Joey Toyama (Pasadena, Calif.) and Longmire. This put the Poets on top 64-52, but they had to work to hold it however.
CMS stopped the run with their own push of seven straight that cut the deficit to single digits with under five minutes to play. Leading by only five, Shank came up with a huge three-pointer that pushed the advantage back to eight. An ensuing 7-2 run by the Stags made it a four-point game with 2:05 to play but again Whittier was able to rebound with Louder converting a lay-up inside. The very next possession for CMS, Miles President came up huge knocking down a triple from dead on that moved the score to 69-66 but again WC would answer this time from Potthoff who knocked down a deep three with under a minute to play. With their backs against the wall, the Stags came up clutch again this time from Mitchell Kirsch who knocked down an open three that again made it a three-point game. On the ensuing inbounds, Louder turned the ball over giving CMS another look with :35 seconds left but their ensuing shot would be off the mark forcing them to foul. Louder was sent to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 situation. He missed the first allowing CMS to come down and have another look for the equalizer but again they would be off the mark. Louder was again sent to the line but this time knocked down both free-throws that made it a five-point game. After that it was a cat and mouse contest with CMS tacking on a dunk and layin, but were unable to see any miscues from the Poets at the free throw line as Shank secured the win with two free-throws down the stretch.
Whittier has a must-win game this Saturday, February 9 as they host Occidental College for PAC the GAC beginning at 7:00pm.