The University of Redlands men's basketball team headed to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Saturday afternoon for a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown with the Sagehens. After the Bulldogs overcame a late seven-point deficit, they saw the comeback slip away in the final minute of the game, resulting in the difficult 60-63 loss.
Down 48-55 with 5:17 left in the game, the Maroon and Gray clawed its way back by converting clutch free-throws down the stretch. Sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) stepped up with two successful shots from the charity stripe before sinking a jumper to make it a three-point game with 4:22 remaining.
Less than a minute later, senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) knocked down a huge trey to tie it up at 55. He was fouled on the subsequent possession and proceeded to take care of business at the free-throw line to give Redlands the lead at 57-55 with 2:41 to go.
After Pomona-Pitzer answered with a lay-up, Bjekovic responded with a successful and-one play for a 60-57 advantage.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Sagehens scored back-to-back buckets to take a 61-60 lead with a minute left on the clock. Redlands took one last shot but missed the mark, leading to the heartbreaking loss.
Bjekovic led the team with 18 points, including a nine-for-nine showing at the stripe. He also pulled in a team-high eight rebounds. Husslein added 15 points and three steals, while sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) chipped in eight points for the Maroon and Gray.
Sophomore forward Reed Hopkins (Spokane, WA) provided key minutes off the pine, scoring five of his seven points just before the close of the first stanza to cut Redlands' halftime deficit to only four.
Overall, Pomona-Pitzer converted more shots, but the Bulldogs impressed from the free-throw line by shooting 93.3% on 15 attempts.
The Sagehens coughed up 15 turnovers, which resulted in 26 points for the Maroon and Gray.
Redlands (4-8, 0-3 SCIAC) strives to return to the win column on Wednesday, January 13, when it hosts Cal Lutheran University at 7:30 p.m.