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Small Colleges : Pomona-Pitzer’s 68-Year Wait Is Finally Over

One of the longest dry spells in sports has ended at Pomona-Pitzer, where the men’s basketball team has won its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title after 68 years of trying.

The Sagehens tied two others for the title in 1958, but they consider this the first title they can call their own. Their 8-2 SCIAC record has earned them a trip to the NCAA Division III regionals in St. Cloud. Minn., along with Dubuque, Nebraska Wesleyan and host St. John’s. Pitzer will play Wesleyan, a Final Four qualifier last year.

“I thought this was the year we might finally bring a championship to Pomona,” sixth-year Coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s something different for Pomona-Pitzer. We’ve got good kids and better talent than they’ve ever had here, and we hope we’re in it for a while.”

Popovich was an assistant to Hank Egan, then at Air Force, when he took the Pomona-Pitzer job. His first team was 2-22 and lost to Caltech, which had set an NCAA record by losing 99 straight.

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“We were like an intramural club,” Popovich recalled. “I was in shock when I saw them. I said to my wife, ‘What have we done?’ ”

Popovich said it took two years “to get people to believe we existed.” The next four years were spent recruiting and building to this season.

“It’s really satisfying to me. The work has paid off,” Popovich said. “I really feel good for a guy like our senior guard Dan Dargan, who was here when we were nothing.”

The Sagehens are led by 6-5 senior forward Dave DiCesaris, who led the SCIAC in scoring as a junior with 19.5 points a game and is averaging 22 points this season. DiCesaris, an economics major who passed up several Division I offers, holds most of the school’s major scoring records, including high game (39) and season scoring (530 and counting).

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DiCesaris’ starting teammates are seniors Dargan, a 6-3 guard, and Tim Dignan, a 6-5 forward, and juniors Gordon Lewis, a 6-4 forward, and Rick Caragher, a 6-2 guard. Forwards Gavin Bradley and Rick Duque, whom Popovich calls the league’s best freshman, and guards Glen Banks and Chuck Kallgren also play.

Popovich says the players other than DiCesaris “are overachievers, the kind of sleepers we go after.”

Once he got over his initial shock, Popovich said, he began to like Division III and prefers it to major college coaching.

“Here, basically, we play,” he said. “You get to really coach, not spend a lot of your time doing the other stuff the Division I coaches have to do. The talent level is really a lot better than people think until they see it.”

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And he doesn’t mind going to Minnesota for the playoffs. “It’s just neat to have somebody besides Whittier and Redlands win (the SCIAC),” he said.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will play host to the first California Collegiate Athletic Assn. basketball postseason tournament. The Mustangs clinched the men’s title, giving them the automatic home site for both the men’s and women’s tournaments Friday and Saturday. Cal Poly Pomona (11-0) is the women’s champion. The top four teams qualify.

The University of Redlands will honor its fourth group of inductees into the school’s athletic hall of fame Thursday. The group of 14 includes three Medal of Honor winners--William E. Hall, track star, class of 1936; Jack Montgomery, football and baseball, class of 1940, and Capt. William McGonagle, football, class of 1945--as well as the hall’s founder, Virginia Reed Coffey, and longtime athletic trainer Dawson Cornish.

Other inductees will be Milton Coggins, three sports, 1926; Pierre Provost, baseball and basketball, 1940; Homer Richards, tennis and football, now the tennis coach at the University of Virginia, 1948; Horace Gillett, tennis, 1954; Richard Virdon, track, 1961; Roger Chaney, football, 1962; Joe Cortez, football and baseball, 1963; David Scott, swimming, 1969; and Steven Vento, football, 1977.

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The inductees will be honored at a dinner Thursday in the school’s Casa Loma Room.

Another former Redlands athlete, swimmer Bruce Parker, will be inducted into the NAIA Athletics Hall of Fame March 5 at Spokane, Wash. Parker, who lives in Hacienda Heights, was a two-time NAIA All-American before graduating in 1965.

Pentathlete Janet Nicolls of Cal Poly Pomona finished first in the USA-Canadian team indoor pentathlon meet at West Texas State University. She totaled 4,023 points to outscore 11 other athletes.

Nicolls, a senior from Covina, won the high jump at 5-11 1/2 and had a career-best long jump of 18-6 1/2. She also ran the 60-yard hurdles in 9.45, had a 40-4 1/2-foot shotput and ran 800 meters in 2:18.49. She failed on an attempt to set a world indoor pentathlon high jump record of 6-0 3/4. Nicolls was the only woman who topped 4,000 points.

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Small College Notes

Point guard Shawn Holiday of Cal State Los Angeles broke the middle finger of his left, nonshooting, hand and needed surgery. He’ll miss the CCAA tournament. . . . Cal State L.A. center Tony Brown broke the men’s CCAA career rebounding record, and Cal Poly Pomona’s Vickie Mitchell broke the women’s mark last weekend. Brown has 461 in four years of league games, breaking the mark of 437 by Cal State L.A.'s Charles Thomas in 1966-68. He has 907 overall, second in school history to Thomas’ 1,025. Mitchell has 454 rebounds in CCAA games and 1,128 for her career, both league marks. . . . Cal State San Bernardino’s men’s basketball team set a team record with a five-game winning streak, and Edwin Wimby set an individual school record with 32 points against Whittier. . . . Cal State L.A. freshman Jeanne Quintana was named top female swimmer in the CCAA championships over the weekend. She won the 200 and 400 individual medleys and had a second and third as well. . . . Cal Poly Pomona’s women’s basketball team broke CCAA records in a 108-56 victory over Cal State Los Angeles. The 108 points topped the league record of 105 shared by Pomona and Cal State L.A. and the 52-point margin broke the record of 44 held by Chapman. . . . High jumper Ron Lee of Cal State Bakersfield set a meet record of 7-1 in the recent Bakersfield Californian Invitational. . . . Sophomore pitcher Chris LaRiviere of Cal State Los Angeles pitched a 2-0 one-hitter against Fresno State. He allowed only a fourth-inning single while striking out three. . . . Biola’s Larry Mancini hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth to lift the Eagles over Cal Poly Pomona at Pomona, 8-7.


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