Claremont, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Men's Basketball team opens its 2013-14 season on Friday night when it plays host to St. Thomas (Minn.), a team which reached the 2013 Division III Final Four a season ago.
Pomona-Pitzer has started the year with heavy drama in each of the last seasons. A year ago, the Sagehens started out with a flourish, defeating Westmont (ranked No. 8 in the NAIA) at the buzzer 81-79. Current junior Kyle McAndrews tied the game with a three-pointer with 18 seconds left, current junior Michael Cohen stole the ball in the closing seconds, and McAndrews fed current senior Jake Klewer on the fast break for a lay-up that fell through as the buzzer sounded (Klewer pictured celebrating after the winning basket).
Two years ago, St. Thomas visited Pomona-Pitzer for the 2011-12 opener as defending national champions and pulled out a double-overtime win (82-79). Current senior Zach Riedeman had 19 points for the Tommies, including a circus shot while being fouled in the final 20 seconds of regulation that turned into a tying four-point play after St. Thomas got the offensive rebound on the missed foul shot.
For the Sagehens, current senior Jake Klewer had 23 points on 10-14 shooting and current junior Michael Cohen had 21 points on 7-10 shooting in his college debut.
Pomona-Pitzer returns all five starters from a year ago, who averaged between 7.5 and 14.4 points per game. Kyle McAndrews led the Sagehens in scoring a year ago, while Jake Klewer averaged 9.3 points and a SCIAC-leading 8.9 rebounds. Michael Cohen (10.5 ppg) and Xavyr Moss (10.3 ppg) also averaged in double figures for Pomona-Pitzer. Senior forward John Weiss (7.5 ppg) rounds out the starting five who are all returning.
The Sagehens will have a lot of new faces behind the starting five, though, as seven of last year's bench players are not returning. Junior guard Joe Eyen, sophomore guard Reid Callan and sophomore forward Gibson Farone-Collins are back from last season's reserve unit, while junior guard Adrian Brandon will rejoin the team after spending the fall semester abroad.
Among the newcomers expected to contribute right away are freshman wing Nick Nordale, a versatile player from Mercer Island, Washington who can play several positions, and freshman big man Mitchell Finkel, a native of Long Island, New York who will provide some size up front at 6-9.
St. Thomas enters the new year ranked No. 15 by D3hoops.com and No. 8 by DIII News after reaching the Division III Final Four last year wiith a 30-2 record. The Tommies lost their top three scorers off last season's team, but return senior point guard Erik Tengwall, who had 78 assists and only 28 turnovers in 30 games. Senior Zach Riedeman (9.3 ppg) is the top returning scorer, and Connor Nord (7.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) is the top rebounder.
Pomona-Pitzer will broadcast the season opener live through First Team Broadcasting with Pomona freshman Jordan Shaheen on the play by play. Links to live video and stats are provided on Sagehens.com on the men's basketball schedule page or by clicking the live broadcasts button on the front page, which links here.