I had Wednesday off and entertainment options were few. I could have stayed home and watched American Idol but wasn’t excited about seeing Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj go at each other.
So I headed over to Ducey Gymnasium, just a few miles from home, for the men’s basketball game between Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer. I had always heard good things about the rivalry and never had the opportunity to take in a game with the majority of my game nights spent at Cal Poly Pomona or Cal State San Bernardino.
I arrived at 6:45 p.m., 45 minutes before tip-off, only to find a crowd of 100 or so in line waiting for the doors to open. I was able to find my way in before the crowd. Moments later people flooded in. By 7 p.m. it was standing room only – even that was hard to come by.
The CMS student side filled up fastest with all wearing either their gold or garnet T-shirts. Yes there were the obligatory men with the letters S-T-A-G-S printed on their bare chests. But we also had a guy in a skin tight gold leotard, with us those of us as the scorer’s table guessing he was supposed to be an Oscar’s statue. The leotard left little to the imagination. There was another guy dressed similarly in green. Not quite sure what he was supposed to be.
The Pomona-Pitzer folks in the balcony also had their lively moments despite being outnumbered by quite a bit. The rooting sections took turns with chants during pregame warm-up. Only here would winning the jump ball warrant a standing ovation.
Both teams had trouble scoring early but Sagehens coach Charlie Katsiaficas says that often happens, with the teams taking a few minutes to settle into the rhythm of the game.
One thing struck me. It was so loud from start to finish I can’t see how the players could hear instructions being shouted from their coaches.
The other thing I noticed . . the lack of whistles early. It wasn’t until the 12:15 mark that the first personal foul was called. The referees pretty much let them play all night.
Games between the two usually go down to the wire but this time the Sagehens couldn’t get over the hump and the Stags won 65-58 behind a career night from Jack Grodahl who had 28 points, 20 of those in the first half.
It was unlike anything I had seen at a college event in my decade in Southern California.Real true passion from both sides. Nowhere else can there be two campuses so close together athletes from one have to walk through the other to get to practice.
I have heard its like that in other sports too but the fact that basketball is in an enclosed venue where the crowd is right on the court adds to the atmosphere. Both schools have good history in the sport too so they’re usually playing for more than bragging rights.
All in all a fun night out!