Stags take early lead but ultimately fall to undefeated Whitman

Miles President (Photo by Stephen Flegel)
Miles President (Photo by Stephen Flegel)

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps matched up against the only team in collegiate men's basketball with an undefeated record in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Stags (23-5) gave it all they had but ultimately fell 79-73 to Whitman (29-0) on Saturday night.

CMS jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead, putting the Blues on their heels. In the first five minutes of the game, four different Stags had points to their name as CMS distributed the ball nicely. Juniors Jack Ely (CMC) and Michael Scarlett (CMC) did the work around the perimeter and then started to feed classmate Kendrick Morris (CMC) in the post.

In the first half, Morris led CMS with 14 points already while Ely had collected four assists. Morris' size and footwork exploited Whitman's defense and gave the Stags seemingly easy buckets. CMS was successful with over 60 percent of its shots in the initial half.

Whitman classically had been dangerous from beyond the arc but the Stags' defense was able to limit the Blues to 0-for-9 on 3-pointers in the first half. But the Blues had not won every game this season without putting in the work. Whitman chipped away at the Stags' lead with more precise ball movement and finished out the half trailing CMS by just three points at 34-31.

After a pair of quick baskets at the beginning of the second quarter, Whitman brought on the full court press that forced a handful of Stag turnovers leading to easy layups. CMS went on a five minute scoring drought while Whitman poured in 11 points to take the 56-40 lead.

After a quiet first half, freshman Miles President (HMC) went to work hitting shots all around the floor. During that time, Tim Howell and Joey Hewitt helped to maintain the Blues' lead. Whitman gathered as much as a 16-point lead, but the Stags did not despair.

Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Scarlett and a layup by sophomore Ryan Kusch (HMC), the Stags cut Whitman's lead to six with just over four minutes remaining. President pulled up for a crucial three with a minute and a half on the clock. He deftly evaded the Whitman defense attempting to contain him in the backfield and took the well-calculated shot from the top of the key.

A timeout called by head coach Ken Scalmanini allowed the team to catch its collective breath and devise a defensive plan. In the subsequent Whitman possession, senior Riley Hall (CMC) grabbed a steal and went the distance for an emphatic dunk to pull CMS within four points.

As time waned, the Stags fouled Whitman to regain possession, but the Blues hit enough free throws to stay out of reach while CMS threw up desperation threes.

Morris led all players with 23 on the night while President, Hall and Scarlett all joined him in double-figures.

Scalmanini was, as always, complimentary of the way "the guys hung tough and came together." In the past four years, CMS has recorded three 20-plus seasons, ending the 2017 campaign at 23-5.

Box Score

By Emily Nordhoff
Sports Information Director

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