While most Swarthmore students went home and enjoyed their time away from the daily rigor of academics and school life, the Men’s Basketball team stayed put, recognizing the work ahead of them to continue their successful season. Although the team successfully led an unprecedented 22-8 campaign last year, their season ended somewhat bitterly with losses in both the Centennial Conference and ECAC Championships to rival Franklin & Marshall and Neumann respectively.
With the end of the season came the tedious process of regrouping and rebuilding after losing three vital senior leaders. However, in an effort to avenge the loss, the team added key freshmen contributors, Nate Shafer ’20, Zac O’Dell ’20, Tyler Pasko ’20, and Josh Collin ’20, and set their sights on furthering the previous year’s success. Now leading a strong senior campaign, Sam Lebryk ’17, Chris Bourne ’17, Michael Rubayo ’17 and the rest of the Garnet have started the season off with an impressive 14-3 record. This run has not gone unnoticed too, as the NCAA has rewarded their strong showing, ranking them as highly as No. 16 at the national Division III level.
After a strong 7-0 start to the season, the Garnet lost their first game as hosts of the Garnet Holiday Tournament to Rowan University in a brutal 92-84 nail biter. However, the team did not let the loss get them down and proceeded to win their next four games in a row, including a blowout win over a one-loss Catholic University squad 88-51. Particularly in the win over Catholic, the team exemplified its maturity, grit, and resilience — dominating the rebounding and points in the paint margins. This is to be expected, though, as Robbie Walsh ’18 has aided a concerted effort by the big men to lead the entire NCAA Division III level in rebound margin for much of the season.
As O’Dell put it, “I think we have a nice balance of working hard and enjoying our experience along the way. Our guys do a great job of holding each other accountable at practice, in the weight room, and even off the court. It just makes everyone better.”
The rebounding success, coupled with the skilled ball-handling and agility of point guard and points leader Cam Wiley ’19, has placed the Garnet in a position to succeed going forward. However, a truly successful team also has both camaraderie and a bit of luck. This spark showed through in the victory over Catholic, as three-point specialist Zack Yonda ’18 drained a half-court shot right before the first half buzzer. It looks like the Garnet have all of the tools to make a good run here in the postseason.
O’Dell described the team’s philosophy going forward, saying “Our goal is just to get a little bit better every day.”
Now in a strong position at the top the Centennial Conference standings with an 8-2 conference record, the Garnet seek to get back on the NCAA rankings after a few tough consecutive losses. The team will finish out the season with only Centennial conference games, and hopes to continue to ride this legacy of success for seasons to come.