SCIAC CHAMPIONS AGAIN
STAGS RETURN TO NCAA TOURNAMENT
For the ninth time since the new millennium and for the seventh time in the past nine years, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags men’s basketball team captured the Dave Jacobs Memorial Trophy signifying the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship. The team then swept through the conference tournament to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III men’s basketball championships. And for the second time in the past three years, the Stags moved to the Round of 32; this year with the upset of No. 8-ranked Whitworth in the opening round.
The season opened with high hopes after last year’s injury ridden fourth place finish. With a fresh start, and four new starters in the line-up, CMS jumped out to a 6-0 record and 17-1 on its way to a 23-5 finish. Those 23 wins represent the second most in CMS history equaling the 1966-67 team that won the Stags’ first SCIAC title. Only the 2009 team won more with 25. In addition, CMS continued its record of winning more conference games than any other SCIAC opponent since the Stags joined the conference in 1960.
This year also marked the opening of the long-awaited Roberts Pavilion. Named after CMC alumnus George Roberts ’66 P ’93, the Pavilion replaced long-time home Ducey Gymnasium with style and dignity, without losing the history. The CMS Athletics Hall of Fame is now housed in Roberts Pavilion and has been renamed the Ted Ducey CMS Hall of Fame.
The team started with 18 players – 2 seniors, 4 juniors, 4 sophomores, and 8 freshmen.
Riley Hall (Sr., CMC, Portland, OR) returned to complete his fourth season with the Stags and his second as the starting forward. He also was the respected team leader, both as team captain and as the team’s floor leader who led by example.
Scott Lynds (Sr., CMC, Laguna Beach) came back from being out all of 2016 from a pre-season season-ending shoulder injury. He showed no side effects from the injury until mid-way through the conference season lightning struck again. The team’s point guard and second leading scorer once again was lost for the season. However, CMS is looking forward to Scott coming back next season for his final year of eligibility.
Jack Ely (Jr., CMC, Saddle River, NJ) had enjoyed a great freshman year before he lost his sophomore year to injury as well. He returned to the Stags mid-season in time for the SCIAC schedule and earned a starting spot before year-end. Michael Scarlett (Jr., CMC, Irvine) was the lone returning starter from 2016 and once again provided the offensive spark at the wing spot. He continued to excel at all parts of the game.
Kendrick Morris (Jr., CMC, Houston, TX) was the 2015-16 most improved player and showed that was well-deserved as he moved into the starting post position. Transfer Andrew Maddock (Jr., CMC, St. Louis, MO) spent the first half of the season out of action due to injury. But when he returned, he played an impactful role inside relieving Morris.
Patrick Myers (So., CMC, Portland, OR) showed his growth as he was the first one off the bench inside. Evan Davis (So., CMC, Cincinnati, OH) was the sixth man coming in to spotlight his 3-point shooting ability. Ryan Kusch (So., HMC, Seal Beach) could play both guard and forward spots and provided strong defensive play while being able to attack the basket on offense. Mark Sui (So., CMC, Fremont) returned for his second seasons and came in as a back-up point guard needing to run the potent Stags offense.
It was a banner year of first year players as eight rookies came to CMS. Miles President (Fr., HMC, Chino Hills) earned a starting spot from the beginning and played consistently at the wing position throughout the year. Sam Garvin (Fr., CMC, Paradise Valley, AZ) showed his ability to defend and to find the open man on offense. George Walker (Fr., CMC, Washington, D.C.) provided needed energy off the bench. Kele Mkpado (Fr., CMC, Santa Barbara) is following in his brother Christian’s footsteps in wearing the Stags uniform. He showed the ability to hit the long-range shot and the drive to the basket.
J.D. Levine (Fr., CMC, New York, NY) showed his abilities to come in as the back-up point guard and both defend and hit the 3-pointer. Max Kirsch (Fr., CMC, Atkinson NH) came off the bench to relieve as power forward. He held his own both offensively and defensively when called upon. Daniel Keinan (Fr., CMC, New York, NY) was another small forward in the CMS arsenal. Jeremy Horn (Fr., CMC, Wynnewood, PA) was yet another post player to come off the bench when called on to shut down the opposing center and also to score key baskets.
CMS opened 2016-17 in Oregon facing Northwest Conference opponents George Fox University and Lewis & Clark and coming away with two wins: 73-60 and 70-45. After that, the team returned home to host the annual David Wells Classic. It was on opening night that the team showed its first sign of a trend that would continue all season long: the ability to outscore its opponent in the second half and turn a deficit into victory. Indeed, the Stags accomplished this 20 times this year.
The Wells Classic, named in memory for long-time CMS head coach and athletics director who won 350 games and six SCIAC titles in his 25-year reign as leader of the Stags, brings top academic schools to Claremont over Thanksgiving weekend for top basketball competition. This year was no different, as Cal Maritime and Southwestern (TX) came to take on CMS and Pomona-Pitzer. The Stags came from behind with its first of 3-consecutive 50-plus point second halves when it upset highly ranked Cal Maritime 83-79.
The weekend ended with a 101-56 win over Southwestern and the followed up with a 90-62 victory over San Diego Christian. Before winter break, CMS had its SCIAC opener at Whittier. CMS propelled a 7-point lead to the first of thirteen conference wins 73-68.
Coming back from the holiday recess, there were two more non-conference wins: over Emerson (84-73) and Oberlin (60-57) as the Stags tuned up for the next fifteen games of the always exciting and intense SCIAC schedule.
Road wins over Redlands (75-69), Chapman (62-44), and Cal Lutheran (86-71) sandwiched home wins over Caltech (78-53) and Occidental (63-58). Then it was home wins over La Verne (90-81) and Redlands (69-64) that surrounded road wins over Pomona-Pitzer (73-67) and Caltech (66-61). The season then wound down with home wins over Whittier (87-67) and Chapman (62-50). It was the win over Chapman that clinched the SCIAC title for the 19th time in CMS history.
But there was one remaining conference game to clinch the title outright and to guarantee the home court advantage throughout the SCIAC tournament. Playing at Occidental, the Stags built up an early only to find itself down three in the waning seconds of play. A three-pointer at the buzzer tied the game and sent CMS into overtime. There, an early rally and key free throws and defense at the end brought the victory and the outright championship to the Stags and the top seed in the SCIAC tournament.
In the semifinal game, CMS found itself down early and by as many as 18 points in the first half to cross-street rival Pomona-Pitzer. A late first half rally brought the Stags to within five at halftime. Then with about seven minutes to play, CMS had its first lead. The final minutes waned and CMS survived all Sagehens attacks and came out with a 70-64 win and advancement to the tournament finals.
CMS is the only team to be in the conference tournament since it began 10 years ago; and was playing its eighth tournament final – again the most of any SCIAC team.
Hosting the finals, the Stags met conference runner-up Cal Lutheran and built up a 10-point halftime lead. The Kingsmen came back to close the gap but CMS stayed true to its game plan and matched all of the Cal Lutheran challenges. When the final buzzer sounded, it was another tournament championship and another trip to the NCAA championships.
Traveling to Walla Walla, WA and host Whitman College, CMS drew eighth-ranked Whitworth in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Stags showed their own worth by heading into halftime 42-37. The lead was never vanquished and a final blocked shot sealed the upset win 78-73. Alas, the record-setting season came to an end the next night as the country’s top ranked team Whitman held off CMS 79-73.
The Stag made their own mark during 2016-17 rising to as high as 12th in the national polls after winning 17 of their first 18 games. Their 19 SCIAC championships are the most by any SCIAC team since CMS joined the conference. Eight titles since 2006 is the best run of any team in conference history. Getting to the second round in each of its last two play-off runs, is the best of any conference team in over two decades.
At season’s end, the conference coaches got together to pick the top players for All-SCIAC recognition. Kendrick Morris received his first such honor be being named to the All-Conference second team. Teammate Michael Scarlett received top honors by being selected recipient of the David Wells Memorial Player of the Year trophy. Finally, Ken Scalmanini and his coaching staff were honored as the SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year.
There were further honors for Scarlett as he was named All-West Region and then second team All-American; only the fifth Stags player to reach All American status.
At the team’s annual banquet, Riley Hall was honored as team captain. This year was more significant as the team captain award was renamed the Bob Sunshine Captain’s award. Bob Sunshine (CMC ’61) was team captain on the original Stags teams in 1958 and 1959 and has become one of the team’s biggest fans. He is the only person who was at the first Stags basketball game in Ducey Gym and at the last Stags basketball in Ducey Gym in 2014. He has been as loyal of a supporter since he first wore the Stags uniform on opening day in 1958.
Jack Ely was named as the best defensive player for 2016-17 and Kendrick Morris was the most improved player. Finally, Michael Scarlett was named team most valuable player.
The final team award given out is the Chris Kampe Memorial Hustle Award. This is a special honor given in memory of Chris Kampe (CMC ’85) who was an all-conference guard and Berger Prize winner as the outstanding senior at CMC in 1985. He passed away from Multiple Myeloma in 1993 leaving a legacy of friendship and a large sense of pride about Stags basketball. The award is given to the player that shows the best in the way of hard work, extra effort, and determination. Riley Hall was honored one more time as the 2017 Kampe Award honoree. His 4-year commitment to CMS basketball paid dividends for him and his teammates this year with a conference championship and advancement to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Championships.
And so now it is time to look forward to 2017-18. With only Riley Hall lost to graduation, the future continues to look bright for Stags basketball. The team will look to defend its SCIAC title again. The team will open its schedule in Wisconsin taking on both UW–Whitewater and UW–Platteville, two perennial NCAA playoff teams.
The season continues with the Wells Classic as Northwest Conference rivals George Fox University and the University of Puget Sound come to Claremont over Thanksgiving weekend for an exciting two games of Division III basketball. This tournament was named in memory of David Wells and carries on the tradition he started and believed in of excellence in academics and athletics.
The mad rush to the conference championship then begins in December with road games against Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer and races to its conclusion in February.
We thank you once again for your support of CMS Stags Basketball. As always, we invite you to follow along throughout the season. The CMS Athletics website offers results, recaps, schedule information, social media updates, live broadcasts and statistics, and much more.
Written by Mike Haas CMC '79