Men’s basketball eliminated from playoff contention after loss to Pomona-Pitzer

Junior forward James Taylor makes a free throw in Chapman’s loss to Pomona-Pitzer. Photo by Madeleine Caraluzzi

The Chapman men’s basketball team was eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday night after losing to Pomona-Pitzer 62-49 in a must-win home game.

Pomona-Pitzer’s 80-61 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Feb. 7 meant that the Panthers needed a win to have any shot at a top-four playoff spot.

“Like our whole season, tonight we struggled to put together a complete performance,” said sophomore point guard Reed Nakakihara. “We jumped on Pomona early but we slowly let them back in it.” 

Junior forward James Taylor led the Panthers (9-12, 4-8) with 18 points. Nakakihara and junior guard Luke Selway had eight.

It was a physical game as the Sagehens (12-9, 8-4) looked to keep Taylor under pressure in the post and prevent the Panthers’ shooters from getting open outside.

“I’m OK with physical games,” said junior guard Tyler Green. “People might think, ‘Oh, the physicality caused the team to not play well,’ but we have a bunch of guys who do pretty well with contact. Pomona just played really well, and they beat us.”

The Panthers started the game well and jumped out to an early 14-4 lead, but Pomona-Pitzer capitalized on a rough offensive stretch for Chapman to jump ahead 16-14 with just more than six minutes left in the first half.

“Offensively, we were in a rut and couldn’t score again,” Green said. “The pace of the game was too slow. I thought we should have tried to push it a little more, because (Pomona-Pitzer) is a team that doesn’t like pressure too much. More fast-break easy points might have changed things a little bit.

As the game went on, the Sagehens kept getting open deep, hitting open shots resulting from defensive mismatches.

“With the postseason out of reach, we still have to continue to battle and finish out the season the right way,” Nakakihara said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, but we have to compete. We still have to play for each other.

With no remaining shot at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) playoffs, the Panthers will be playing for pride when they host the California Institute of Technology on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m.

“We’re doing this for the seniors now,” Green said. “We want to go out and play hard for them in these last four games just to go out on a high note.”

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