CMS Men's Basketball Falls to Occidental in Overtime Heartbreaker

Mitchell Kirsch hit two big three-pointers in the final five minutes to help the Stags force overtime, finishing with 14 points.
Mitchell Kirsch hit two big three-pointers in the final five minutes to help the Stags force overtime, finishing with 14 points.

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball team had a furious rally from down 10 points in the last five minutes to force overtime on a last-minute three-pointer from senior guard Mark Sui, but Austin DeWitz hit a 15-foot jumper with 3.6 seconds left in overtime to give Occidental a 64-62 win over the Stags in the SCIAC Tournament semifinal round on Friday night at Roberts Pavilion.

The loss ends the season for CMS at 19-7 overall, and guarantees a new SCIAC champion, after the Stags won the last two league titles. Occidental moves to 22-4 on the year, avenging a pair of regular season losses to CMS, and advances to the SCIAC Championship tomorrow against Pomona-Pitzer. 

The Stags appeared to be in trouble in regulation, trailing 54-44 when the clock hit the 5:00 mark remaining in regulation. However, sophomore guard Mitchell Kirsch hit the first of his two big three-pointers late in the game from the right wing, and Occidental's Caleb Yellin-Flaherty, who had 20 points against the Stags last week, fouled out with 4:33 to go when he was called for warding off on a baseline drive. 

Jacob Adler knocked down a jumper with 3:54 to go to make the score 56-47, but the Stags closed out on a 9-0 run with three three-pointers to force the extra session. Junior guard Miles President hit the first one with 2:33 to go to close the gap to 56-50, and Kirsch hit another one from the right wing off a pass from senior forward Nicolas Segura Dobjacnschi to make it a one-possession game with 1:39 left.

Stifling CMS defense forced a difficult Adler three-pointer at the end of the shot clock, and junior forward George Walker (11 rebounds) corralled the defensive board. Segura Dobjanschi again got the ball in his hands as the clock ticked under 50 seconds, and this time he found Sui alone in the left corner, who knocked down the big three-pointer to tie it. 

Occidental missed its first attempt at a go-ahead basket on another contested three-pointer, this time from Kyle Dosa, but Zach Baines was able to get the offensive rebound to give the Tigers a chance to hold for the last shot. DeWitz was stuck along the left sideline with the shot clock winding down, and Kirsch read the bailout pass for a steal, missing a desperation shot from midcourt as time expired. 

Baines hit a go-ahead pull-up jumper in the paint in overtime to make the score 60-58 with 1:46 left, and after the Stags split two at the line, Adler hit a tough 18-foot jumper from the top of the key off a crossover just before the shot clock expired to make it a 62-59 game. The three-ball continued to be big for the Stags, though, as President pulled up for a deep three from the left wing with 47 seconds left to tie it back up at 62-62. 

DeWitz missed a tough jumper with 20 seconds left, and the pivotal rebound bounced around for several seconds before it found its way into the hands of Dosa to give the Tigers the possession with the shot clock off. The Tigers called a timeout with nine seconds left and worked the ball to the DeWitz 15 feet out on the left block. He was defended well, but with time winding down he was able to step back for a fadeaway that found the net to give Occidental the lead. 

CMS had just seconds to try to rush upcourt, and elected to try to go without a timeout to catch Occidental's defense unorganized. However, the Tigers were able to deflect the ball away at midcourt with two seconds left and come away with the steal to prevent CMS from getting a last desperations shot off and seal the win. 

Occidental was able to pull off the win by keeping a larger CMS team out of the paint, ending up with a 40-22 edge in paint points. The Tigers often switched to a zone in late shot clock situations to prevent Segura Dobjanschi from penetrating off the dribble, turning him into more of a perimeter passer (six assists).

At the other end, DeWitz had a game-high 20 points, and Baines finished 8-9 from the floor for 16 points, most of which came on short post-up jumpers from 10 feet and in. The Stags came in leading the nation in scoring defense at 60.0 points per game, and even with overtime, Occidental still only reached 64 points, but the Tigers were able to shoot 54.4 percent from the floor while maximizing their possessions with a short bench (six players combined to all but three of the 225 minutes, while the five starters had all 64 points). 

Kirsch finished with 14 points on 5-6 shooting (3-3 from three), and Segura Dobjanschi added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. President added 12 and Sui had 11 as CMS had four players in double figures, while Walker matched his career high with 11 rebounds.