WALLA WALLA – A game-ending 9-2 run over the final 3:09 lifted Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to a 78-73 victory over No. 8 nationally-ranked Whitworth in opening-round action of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament at Whitman College.
Center Kendrick Morris scored a game-high 24 points as the Stags improved to 23-4 on the season.
“We played our best game of the year,” CMS coach Ken Scalmanini said. “This is the best chemistry team I’ve ever coached.”
The Stags stunned the Pirates early by jumping out to a 17-8 lead after six-and-a-half minutes of play. A Daniel Keinan dunk at the 13:29 mark ended the the early run.
Whitworth twice closed to within two. A Drew Sears free throw with 6:54 on the clock made it 26-24 and a successfully-completed drive to the tin by Kyle Roach brought the tally to 32-30.
A 10-4 blitz, capped by a Morris putback with seven seconds to go, gave CMS a 42-34 lead.
“I’m ready when they need me,” Morris said. “I do what I can do to help the team.”
Kenny Love provided much-needed momentum for the Pirates with a straight-on 3 as time expired to cut the Stags’ advantage to five, 42-37.
Morris, who was 7-for-10 from the field in the first half, and fellow frontliner Jack Ely scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, to lead CMS.
The Stags went up eight, 49-41, on a Morris layin at the 17:51 mark of half two.
But the Pirates would use a 16-4 run to seize momentum. They tied the game at 51 on a Benjamin Nick free throw with 11:16 remaining and took their first lead of the night, 54-51, when Kyle Roach drained a 3-pointer at the 11:10 mark.
CMS fashioned a 12-2 spurt to claim a 65-59 lead. A fading jumper by Ely at the 6:42 mark established the six-point spread.
Whitworth scored 12 of the next 16 points to nudge its way to a 71-69 edge. A 3-pointer by Love with 3:26 to go gave the Pirates their final lead of the game.
“I stepped into a good shot,” Love said.
Miles President put the Stags in front for keeps with a three-point play just 17 seconds after Love’s triple, and blocked a game-tying three-point attempt by Love with nine seconds left.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. “Hats off to CMS. Our guys responded well, but we were not able to finish.”
Whitworth ended its season 23-5.
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