CMS RETURNS TO SCIAC TOURNEY! - ONLY SCIAC TEAM TO QUALIFY EVERY YEAR!
Written by Mike Haas CMC '79
High expectations filled the cup atop the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) men's basketball championship trophy as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags men's basketball team opened the 2015-16 season. After all, the Stags had won or shared the conference title eight times since 2002. Indeed, CMS could boast of laying claim to the trophy 6 of the previous 7 years. But then, the one unknown – injury – took over and drove the season down an unexpected avenue. Three starters were lost to injury at the beginning of the season, and two more players expected to contribute from the bench also went down. Mid-way through conference play, another starter suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Despite the trials and tribulations, CMS continued to battle and continued to play with the energy and enthusiasm that has been its trademark since the days of Ted Ducey. And while the Stags did not come away with a new SCIAC banner in 2016, they did finish the season with 7 wins in their final 9 games to finish in the top half of the conference and did qualify for the conference post-season tournament. The SCIAC has had a post-season tournament since 2008 and with its comeback over the final month in 2016, CMS still is the only conference team to be in the tournament every year.
Going even further, even with the locker room looking like a sports medicine clinic at times, the team was able to amass 14 wins and achieve its 19th consecutive winning season – this is a mark to which no other conference school can lay claim. And even more: since the entrance of the Stags 57 years ago, no SCIAC opponent has won more conference games than CMS. In fact, the Stags can boast of finishing in the top 4 spots in the final standings 45 times in the 57 years it has competed for the conference title. No other SCIAC school can say that either.
The 2016 roster started with 18 players before it dwindled down. There were five seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and four freshmen when the season started. The veterans were able to foster their prior experience and teach the newcomers the CMS way which made the difference as the Stags climbed over five teams over the final four weeks to advance to the SCIAC tournament.
Jack Earley (Sr., CMC, Arlington, VA) was the lone senior who was able to play the entire season unscathed. He was team captain – and in some ways was the captain of a ship with a crew of trainees. There were times he was on the floor with four freshmen and sophomores guiding them both on offense and defense.
Jason Harrington (Sr., CMC, Woodinville, WA) returned mid-season after a fall semester internship. He had played on previous conference championship teams and this experience went a long way in bringing poise and patience down the stretch. Also, he played in almost constant pain as he endured knee injuries in the past two seasons. Not only was his play inspiring, it was clutch as he pushed the team offensively from outside and posting up.
Shelby Lane (Sr., CMC, San Antonio, TX) came back for a third season as the starting post player. But he too was lost for several games at the beginning of the SCIAC schedule. Having him back for the second half of the conference season made a difference as his strength and size presented a formidable obstacle for opponents to overcome. He also was a team co-captain.
Nick Lund (Sr., CMC, Woburn, MA) missed the first two weekends of the season from his own injuries. But when he returned as the platoon center with Shelby Lane, he brought an offensive fire power to the Stags. He has one of the better soft touches for a post player in recent CMS history.
Richard Harris (Sr., CMC, Atherton) was going to solidify the post position for CMS by coming off the bench to strengthen the Stags defense in the middle. However, after playing early in the season, he was lost to injury and missed the majority of his senior year. In true Stags fashion, he never stopped contributing by being the loudest supporter of the team, particularly of his fellow post players.
Scott Lynds (Jr., CMC, Laguna Beach) was ready to take over at the point guard position until a pre-season shoulder injury took him out for the entire season.
Riley Hall (Jr., CMC, Portland, OR) who had contributed from the bench his first two years and was looking at the same role in 2016 was elevated to the starting line-up mid-way through the SCIAC schedule. And the effects were apparent as he brought a level of enthusiasm and hard play that lifted the entire team. Gunner Grayson (Jr., CMC, Lexington, VA) joined Scott Lynds on the sideline as a spectator for 2016 as he also had to endure the season recuperating from a pre-season season-ending injury.
Jack Ely (So., CMC, Saddle River, NJ) had enjoyed a great freshman year and was looking forward to starting as a forward in 2015-16 when too was lost for the season. Michael Scarlett (So., CMC, Irvine) showed he could shoot as a freshman and was looked to provide much of the offensive spark as a wing. He earned a starting spot form the beginning and grew in all aspects of his game as the season progressed. Kendrick Morris (So., CMC, Houston, TX) found himself coming off the bench as the third post player. His improvement from his freshman year was obvious and he added an offensive dimension to the CMS attack. David Plumlee (So., CMC, Dallas, TX) was another member of the walking wounded. He was able to come back and play in only one game after being sidelined with his injury. Joey Malgesini (So., CMC, Los Altos) was the final CMS starter to see his season come to an early end. His knee injury during the first half of conference action provided one more challenge to the Stags season. Nick Segura (So., CMC, McLean, VA) transferred into CMC and made quite an impact – joining the starting line-up at the small forward position. He contributed often with his ability to score inside at the CMS offensive end.
Patrick Myers (Fr., CMC, Portland, OR) was put into games for defensive purposes and in bringing his energy to pump up the team. Evan Davis (Fr., CMC, Cincinnati, OH) showed he was one of the best shooting 3-point shooters in recent history as brought his outside shooting fire power off the bench. Ryan Kusch (Fr., HMC, Seal Beach) played in high school for a former Stag, Eddie Courtemarche (CMC '05) and it was clear he had learned the CMS way before even getting to the gym this season. He too brought an enthusiasm to the court every time he played. Mark Sui (Fr., CMC, Fremont) had the unenviable job of backing up Jack Early but handled it well – being able to defend, to run the Stags offense, and also to be able to score from the outside and with his quick drives to the basket.
Special mention has to go to three players who came on board midway through the season when the team roster dwindled to the point of not having enough players to practice. Ryan Farney and Tyler Stanek were two seniors who helped lead the Stags football team to its best record in five years and who showed they were winners in more than just football. Ian Campbell who hadn't played for any other team was another individual who brought positive contributions to the team in the time of need. Their joining the team helped the team not just survive but get better and get into a position to make its late season surge.
The Stags opened the season in the San Francisco Bay area and closed out the weekend with a 69-55 win over UC Santa Cruz. That set a winning pattern for the following weekend when CMS traveled back east for the first time in four years. In two non-conference games, the Stags bested both John Jay College of Criminal Justice (80-44) and Hunter College (91-73). Following the Hunter game, CMS was able to enjoy the sites of New York with several Stags alumni.
The winning streak continued when CMS returned home for the Thanksgiving weekend and the annual Wells Classic co-hosted by CMS. This is the tournament envisioned by former CMS head basketball coach and athletic director David Wells (CMC '72) that brings top academic institutions to Claremont for a weekend of exciting Division III basketball. The Stags held on to defeat Bristol College (65-63) and then beat Carleton College (MN) (64-43) to sweep the tournament.
The non-conference schedule followed with its sixth consecutive win as CMS came from behind to defeat a strong NAIA opponent San Diego Christian 77-76 thanks to a last possession blocked shot.
The SCIAC schedule ensued as the team returned from winter break. The first round saw the Stags with only two wins, both on the road: beating Caltech 64-56 and Cal Lutheran 62-54. Both were upsets as CMS started its upward climb in the standings.
And so the streak began and then continued. Caltech came to Claremont and the Stags controlled the game from the start to defeat the upstart Beavers 61-45. In what may have been the turning point, CMS bounced back to come from behind to win at Occidental in overtime 69-66. This momentum carried over to the next game at La Verne when the Stags once again persevered to defeat the Leos 65-60.
The games stayed close but the confidence grew that allowed CMS to turn around what had been defeats earlier in the year. Facing Cal Lutheran at home, the Stags held off a late game rally to sweep the series from the Kingsmen 63-58.
In the final home game of the year, CMS had to face Pomona-Pitzer. It was a home game for the Sagehens too as the Stags have been playing their home games at the Rains Center the past two years. We want to thank our Sixth Street neighbors for their hospitality in allowing us to use their facility. The Stags knew the consequences of the game and played hard and came from behind to win the rivalry game and be within challenging distance of the final tournament spot with a 51-49 victory.
For the final game of the regular season, CMS had to travel to Chapman to play the first place Panthers. Knowing what was on the line, the Stats challenged early and kept the game close heading into the final minutes. A three-pointer with less than a minute to play and then timely free throw shooting brought the win 77-73 and a trip to the SCIAC tournament. It had been a remarkable final 9 games.
Unfortunately, the semi-final game brought the season to an end for the Stags. But there is no reason to feel disappointment, as CMS came back in what was an exciting tribute to its players and its seniors who led the way. Please watch the highlight video of the season at the CMS website under men's basketball.
At the post-season SCIAC coaches meeting, Shelby Lane earned his second 2nd team All-SCIAC selection. And at the team banquet, more players earned post-season honors. Jack Earley and Lane were recognized as the team's captains. Sophomore Kendrick Morris was voted the CMS Most Improved Player by his teammates. Junior Riley Hall who elevated himself to the starting line-up won the Best Defensive Player award. The Most Valuable Player trophy went to Earley for his strength in running the team and being the glue that held the team together throughout such a challenging year.
The Chris Kampe Memorial Hustle Award is the final award that was handed out. Chris Kampe graduated CMC in 1985 and was a three-year letterwinner as well as a 1st Team All-SCIAC selection his senior year. Chris was a good teammate and a better friend. He was diagnosed with cancer in January, 1992 and unfortunately, lost his battle in August, 1993. Coach Wells renamed the award in Chris' memory. This award had always stood for something special from the days when Coach Ducey initiated it in the early days of CMS basketball. It means as much today as it is given to a player who exhibits hard work, exemplary effort, and determination on a daily basis throughout the season. Freshman Ryan Kusch was honored this season. He brought positive energy to the team throughout the season by playing hard all the time, even with limited playing time.
One last note about Chris Kampe is that through the support of his friends, and the backing of the college, the Stags locker room in the new Roberts Pavilion has been named in his memory.
And now the new season is on the horizon and with CMS moving into its new home in Roberts Pavilion, there is a renewed excitement for the Stags basketball program. While the five seniors leave with a lot of leadership going with them, the returning players learned much from them and will be ready to run knowing they have a lot of history in their bag.
The schedule for 2016-17 finds the team traveling to Oregon to take on Lewis & Clark and George Fox. Then there is the Wells Classic over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to look forward to. This is the invitational tournament named in Coach Wells' memory that strives each year to bring the best academic institutions from throughout the country to Claremont for a weekend of exciting Division III basketball. Whenever possible, it is respectfully asked that you please direct your donations to the Wells Classic as the endowment is built up to fund this wonderful endeavor envisioned by Coach Wells.
After completing the non-conference portion of the schedule, the always unpredictable SCIAC season will be waiting for the Stags as they return from winter break in early January. With the way the 2016 race ended, coming down to the final game of the season, one can only expect 2017 to be just as action packed.
In closing, we once again thank you for your continued support. We always appreciate hearing from you. You can follow the Stags on the internet by going to www.cms.claremont and clicking on athletics. All of the box scores from the season are posted as soon as available during the season and most of the games now are on "live stats" or are "streamed" to allow you to follow all the action as it is happening.
Looking forward to a successful 2016-17 season, we remain,