CLAREMONT, Calif. - The CMS men's basketball team, which ranked second in the nation in team defense coming in (60.8 ppg) held its third opponent to under 50 points in its final four regular season contests with a 62-45 win over Chapman on Tuesday evening in its regular season finale at Roberts Pavilion.
With the win, CMS closes out the regular season with a 19-6 record, including 13-3 in SCIAC games, heading into Friday night's home semifinal matchup with Occidental at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the finals on Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal between Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands.
Seniors Mark Sui, Nicolas Segura Dobjanschi and Ryan Kusch were honored prior to the game as part of Senior Day, and Segura Dobjanschi (15 points) and Sui (12 points) ended up 1-2 on the team in scoring on the evening. Junior forward George Walker had a big day off the bench with eight points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Even though there was nothing at stake for CMS when it came to the postseason, as it already knew it was locked into the No. 2 seed and had a home semifinal with Occidental on Friday night, Kusch felt that the Stags were still treating it as a meaningful game.
"We talked about it beforehand that the game wouldn't affect our standings," said Kusch, "but we still want to come out and play hard. That's just CMS culture here in our basketball program. We want to always come out and play hard every game and play hard for each other, and I think we came out and did that and put together a complete game."
The game actually started out like it might be a high-scoring affair, with a basket from Jeff Kenney of Chapman making the score 12-10 in the Stags' favor just 5:30 into the game. However, the CMS defense locked in and didn't allow Chapman to make another field goal for a stretch of 8:01, when Daniel Foldes had a lay-up to cut the CMS lead to 25-16 with 6:29 left in the half.
That basket only slowed down the Stag momentum for a moment, as CMS went on a 12-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer from junior forward Maxwell Kirsch, to take a commanding 37-16 lead with 2:44 left in the half. Cam Haslam scored with just five seconds left to make it 37-18 at the break, as the Stags held Chapman to just eight points over the final 14:30 of the opening half.
Chapman shot just 24 percent in the first half (6-25) after getting off to a quick start, while the Stags shot 50 percent (16-32).
CMS built its largest lead at 42-19 early in the second half on two Segura Dobjanschi foul shots. Chapman battled back and came as close as 13 points on four occasions, but the outcome in the second half was never really in doubt as Chapman was unable to reach the 50-point barrier for the contest, joining La Verne (49) and Cal Lutheran (48) as teams that the Stags have held under 50 in the last two weeks.
"It's a lot of fun playing defense with this team," said Kusch. "We come out and we have great scouts, so we know exactly what every team's going to be doing and we know other players' tendencies. We come into games really prepared, and I think it really shows when we can string together streaks of five, six, seven stops in a row. It really changes the game in our favor."
CMS will be back in action for the SCIAC semifinals on Friday night, facing an Occidental team that it beat twice in two close contests, winning 63-60 at Occidental on Jan. 7 and 65-57 at Roberts Pavilion last Wednesday.