Senior Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) poured in 21 points to end his career with 1,127, ranking eighth all-time in Caltech men’s basketball history, as the Beavers fell to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, 74-66, on Tuesday night.
The Beavers entered the day needing a victory coupled with losses by both Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College and the University of La Verne, but with their historic season now over will look to next year with all but two players returning, including the top two scorers and seven of the top eight.
Caltech outscored Pomona-Pitzer, 28-20, in the paint but gave up 12 offensive rebounds and the Sagehens knocked down 7-of-20 three-point attempts to the Beavers’ 3-of-14 to make the difference.
Both teams went nearly the first two minutes before the first basket, which Emezie picked up on a fast break layup on a full-court pass by junior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep). Junior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) followed with a jump hook to take the 4-0 lead.
The Sagehens scored six of the next eight points to tie the game at 6-6 at 15:29 and surged ahead, 13-7, over the next four minutes. Junior David LeBaron (San Diego Calif. / Francis Parker) and Emezie knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to pull within two immediately and the senior got a put-back on the next possession to tie the game at 15-15.
Al-Rayes was whistled for a technical foul, which allowed Pomona-Pitzer to regain the lead. The big man made up for the call on the next possession as he drove to the rim and was fouled, then hit both free throws to knot it up again with 7:56 to go. The hosts pulled back ahead by three but Caltech stormed back when freshman David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood) found Emezie on a 3-on-2 fast break, followed by a midrange spin jumper from Lee to go ahead by one, 21-20, at the five-minute mark.
Freshman Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Laguna Beach) earned a trip to the line, where he converted both chances to make it a three-point game with 3:28 remaining in the half, and Emezie laid another in to hold the margin after a pair of Sagehens free throws.
The hosts closed the half strong with a 10-2 run as the Beavers could only muster a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left to go into the break trailing 32-27.
Pomona-Pitzer sprinted out of halftime, extending the lead to 10 with 14:41 on the clock and stretching to as many as 14 at 46-32 with 12:27 remaining. The Beavers began to claw back as they have all season, however, cutting the deficit to single digits with 10:35 to go and pulling within four at 57-53 with 6:02 left to play.
The Sagehens hit two free throws and sank a trey to stretch back out by eight, but Caltech refused to give in and made it a one-possession game at 63-60 on a pair of free throws by Galliani with 3:28 remaining. Pomona-Pitzer went back up by six with just 1:36 to go and, although Emezie fought his way into the lane and converted the and-one to bring the Beavers back within three at 1:25, the hosts came up with a backdoor cut layup and pulled down two offensive rebounds to hold on for the victory.
Eslinger’s squad made history in numerous ways this season, not the least of which was the program’s record seventh SCIAC win in a season, which broke the title-winning 1953-54 team’s mark of six. The Beavers also defeated Occidental College three times in a season, another first since 1944-45, and spent a total of 22 days with at least a share of the top position in the conference standings. Al-Rayes re-set his own single-season and single-game records for blocks, with 64 total and eight at SCIAC champion Chapman University on Jan. 20, while Caltech set new single-season team marks for points (1,566), rebounds (951) and blocks (105).