For those of you who did not make it out to the men’s basketball game this Saturday, you missed out on a packed senior day filled with phenomenal basketball. As if a tribute to their seniors’ last home game, the Men’s Basketball team obliterated Johns Hopkins University by a final score of 70-48. Usually, basketball games come down to the last heated ten minutes, but on Saturday, due to the team’s peak performance in the first half and a continuing run of plays in the second half, the Swarthmore Garnet had this game locked down as it neared the final buzzer.
This game serves as proof for all of the hard work that the team has been putting in at practice, whether it be those seniors who only have a handful of games left, or the freshman who have quite a few seasons still ahead of them. The constant effort by all the players allowed this victory to not come as a complete shock, even considering their past history with Hopkins. For veteran players such as Michael Rubayo ’17, this was an unprecedented win on his senior night.
“We were not expecting to beat Hopkins by as much as we did, as I had never beaten them in my career here. But it did not surprise us either, we knew that when we play our best basketball, stick together as a team, and put together a strong 40 minutes, like we did on Saturday, we feel like we can play with anyone,” Rubayo said.
While this win had significance for the seniors on their big day and for the team in general to maintain that top conference spot, the players approached this game the same as they would every other. Cam Wiley ’19, the offensive star of the day, put up 25 points and cemented his status as four time player of the week in the Centennial Conference this season. He spoke to his team’s commitment all season to make these moments possible.
“Regardless of the opponent or the game, we work hard each day during practice so that we can continually improve and be our best for the upcoming competition,” Wiley said. “Every member of our team is all in for the next challenge, primarily focused on the game plan and supporting each other throughout. I believe this effort has contributed to our success this season.”
It seems clear that these players attribute this win to the effort of the team. This team displays a commitment to support each of its players including the first years, such as Zac O’Dell ’20. Although young, he has gotten his fair share of playing time, almost averaging 17 minutes a game. While obviously possessing some natural talent, he credits the role the upperclassmen have played for him as part of the reason for his successful season.
“As a freshman I would say I came into the year nervous, but after playing with these guys for months now, the nerves are pretty much gone. The older guys did a great job showing us freshman how things are done around here,” said O’Dell.
Contributions from all teammates left Hopkins struggling to score. Players such as Wiley and Zack Yonda ’18 had high scoring games, but numerous players were able to put up additional points for the Garnet. The constant offensive pressure was made possible by some remarkable defense, in particular, an overwhelming amount of rebounds. O’Dell, Nate Shafer ’20, and Robbie Walsh ’18 managed to snatch eight, seven, and five rebounds respectively. The highlights of the game such as Wiley’s unrelenting 3-pointers and Yonda’s tremendous block, were matched with an underlying tenacity and fight that made every minute enjoyable to watch. Needless to say, having a full audience did not intimidate these players very much.
“The fans provided us with energy for all forty minutes which is something we will need if we are to host the Centennial Championships in a few weeks,” said Rubayo.
Though the influx of students, parents and faculty could have caused the Garnet to fold, players, such as Wiley, managed to play up to the moment based on a strong foundation from practice.
“I attribute my coaches and our team preparation that put myself and others in the position to play well and together. However, I don’t believe the pressure of the game had any bearing on the outcome. My teammates and I have consistently worked hard this entire year for these moments in the season. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that we rose to the occasion, but rather sunk to the level of our training,” said Wiley
Hopkins leaving with a measly 32.7 shooting percentage showed just how strong our men’s basketball team’s level of training is. With only a few games left to decide who gets to host the Centennial Conference tournament, the players have a couple more opportunities to show off the hard work they have put in all season before heading into playoffs.