Bulldog Men's Basketball's Comeback Effort Falls Short in SCIAC Postseason Tournament Semifinal
In a repeat match-up from a year ago, the University of Redlands men's basketball team battled it out with the No. 11 Stags of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in Friday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament semifinal. However, the results were not the same for the Bulldogs, who fell short by a heartbreaking score of 65-67. Despite shooting 52.1% for the night, the Maroon and Gray saw the game won at the free-throw line, where CMS knocked down 17 of its 25 shots, compared to Redlands' 7-for-10 performance.
After jumping out to an early lead, the Bulldogs faced a 10-point deficit midway through the opening frame. However, a barrage of three-pointers helped make it 30-35 at the break.
The Stags appeared in control early in the second half, as they built another double-digit lead, thanks to made free-throws and opportunities off of Bulldog turnovers.
With a bid to the NCAA Championships on the line, Redlands continued to fight, trimming an 11-point deficit to four points with 9:30 left in the period. With three points, junior guard Tristan Kirk (Redlands, CA) led the well-rounded offense during this spurt.
Four minutes later, the Maroon and Gray trailed by only three when senior center Jack Colston (Dana Point, CA) drove the hole for a lay-up.
Redlands eventually made up some ground on a three-pointer by senior guard Mychal Estrada (Redlands, CA), which cut the lead to 63-65 with less than two minutes to go.
After a Stag miss, junior forward Josiah Brensdal (Kent, WA) pulled in a huge rebound, but a ball-handling mishap by the Bulldogs forced them to foul.
CMS' Tyler Gaffney converted only the second free-throw, breathing new life into the Maroon and Gray, which now trailed by a score of 63-66.
With 17 seconds left, Head Coach Jim Ducey talked it over with the Bulldogs to set up a three-point play. But Kirk's long ball wouldn't fall. However, Brensdal grabbed another big board and quickly laid it in to make it 65-66.
With one second remaining, another free-throw attempt by Gaffney went down, resulting in the two-point loss and the end of the season for Redlands.
Kirk and Estrada led the Bulldogs with 13 apiece, while junior guard Brian Kuklok (Poway, CA) stepped up with 10 points. All eight players who entered the game for Redlands scored at least four points apiece.
Mani Maceira posted a game-high 17 points for the Stags, while Chris Blees added 13 points and 12 rebounds. Joseph Anderson was the only other double-digit performer with 10 points.
Redlands shot 63.6% in the second half while holding the Stags to a 47.6% showing. Overall, this game appeared extremely tight in many statistical categories, with the exception of free-throws, which gave CMS a 15-attempt advantage at the line.
CMS (23-2) faces Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in the tournament final on Saturday.
Redlands closes out the season with a 13-13 record.