The University of Redlands men's basketball team laid it all on the line in a gutsy comeback effort against 14th-ranked Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in the 1-4 matchup of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament on Friday night in Claremont. After trailing by as many as 21 points, the Bulldogs clawed their way back but fell just short in a 77-79 loss.
The two teams traded blows early on, including two consecutive triples from sophomore forward Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA) for the Maroon and Gray's 8-4 lead early on.
The Sagehens knocked down their own pair of three-pointers on the ensuing possessions, but senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) answered from downtown moments later with a go-ahead trey to make it 11-10 at the 15:54-mark.
After Pomona-Pitzer mustered a 9-0 run, first-year guard/forward Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA) ended the Bulldogs' drought with a jumper to cut it to six at 13-19 with 12:58 to go.
By the 6:15-mark of the first half, Pomona-Pitzer opened up its largest lead of the game at 39-18.
Although Redlands faced a sizable deficit, junior wing Brittain Foster (Long Beach, CA) and junior guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) drained consecutive three-pointers with 3:13 left before the break. The Bulldogs continued to see the ball go into the hoop with a 9-0 run of their own. After a steal from G. Menary, Hass' jumper capped off the lucrative stretch by cutting the deficit to 33-45 with about a minute to go in the half. First-year forward Kameron Wright (Fontana, CA) tacked on another two points, as Redlands entered the break down by a score of 34-47.
To begin the second half, the Bulldogs shot the ball well but also allowed Pomona-Pitzer to stay in front.
Nonetheless, the tide began to change at the 10:20-mark when Berry dropped in a trey to make it 53-68. The Redlands defense picked up its intensity while the offense continued to roll with a pair of back-to-back layups from G. Menary, which slimmed the deficit to 57-68.
As the momentum continued to shift in favor of the Bulldogs, Landolf knocked down a jumper and then stole the ball en route to a three-pointer in transition to make it 62-73 with 6:40 to go.
The Maroon and Gray began to stage its final push when it moved within single digits for the first time since midway through the first half. Berry's triple off of Sponheim's dime cut it to 67-78 with 3:49 left on the clock.
About two minutes later, Sponheim stole the ball off the full-court press and sank a layup to make it a two-possession game at 73-78. The Bulldogs' hustle was on full display, as Wright's offensive board led to another three-pointer from Berry to make it 76-78 with 52 seconds to force a Pomona-Pitzer timeout.
After sending the Sagehens to the free-throw line where they gained a three-point lead with five seconds remaining, Pomona-Pitzer strategically fouled sophomore guard Michael Hanna (Murrieta, CA) to avoid another three-pointer by the Bulldogs. Hannah knocked down the first one and missed the second intentionally. The plan worked, as junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) corralled the offensive rebound for a final shot, but it just missed the mark as time expired.
In his final game as a Bulldog, Sponheim finished with a team-high 17 points, to go along with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Berry provided critical minutes off the bench with four three-pointers on his way to 15 points with three rebounds. Landolf stepped up for 11 points and four rebounds, while G. Menary tallied nine points, four rebounds, two assists, and a game-high three steals. D. Menary worked to distribute the ball to lead the game with seven assists. Off the bench, Wright nearly notched a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes, while Foster supplied seven points and three rebounds.
Redlands ends the 2018-19 season with an overall record of 15-11 and a 10-6 mark in the SCIAC. Pomona-Pitzer (24-2, 15-1 SCIAC) moves on to Saturday's final against Occidental College.