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Men’s Basketball hopes to defend title

in Men/Sports/Winter by

If you take a walk through the lobby of the Fieldhouse these days, you’ll likely hear the sound of a ball repeatedly striking hardwood. That’s right, basketball is back in season, and the Garnet Men’s Basketball team are making a statement to start the season. They’ve so far gone 4-0, averaging almost 95 points a game, the 20th most in the nation, while outscoring their opponents by nearly 15 points a game. Coming into this season, the Garnet were ranked No. 25 in the nation and were the preseason Centennial Conference Champion selections, and now they find themselves at No. 12 in the most recent rankings.

The Garnet reached their first NCAA basketball tournament last season after winning the Centennial Conference for the first time. However, this year’s team only returns six of last year’s players. Key losses include Sam Lebryk ʼ17, career 1000 point scorer Chris Bourne ʼ17, and former starting point guard Matt Brennan ʼ18. However, they retain the services of point guard Cam Wiley ʼ19, who had an absolutely phenomenal breakout sophomore season and was named the first ever Garnet All-American after setting the program single-season record for scoring. He is also joined by Zack Yonda ʼ18, a two-time All-Conference selection. Big man Robbie Walsh ʼ18 also returns for the Garnet as a force in the paint. Last year’s top rebounding team has been well serviced by him so far, along with fellow big men Zac O’Dell ʼ20 and Nate Shafer ʼ20. All three already have at least 20 boards each on the season. Jim Lammers ʼ18, the final returner for the Garnet, has tallied the second most minutes on the team and is perhaps best known for his spectacular defense.

Because of all of those personnel losses from last season, the Garnet brought in a very large first-year class of seven.

The freshman are doing a good job getting acclimated to our system and have continued to improve as they get more reps in practice and more game experience.  Since we only have 6 returners from last year they will have to play a big role since many of them will need to play significant minutes for us,” said Walsh.

Already some of the first-years are having a big impact for the squad. In the first game of the season, when the Garnet blitzed Hood College for 111 points, first-years sharpshooter Conor Harkins ʼ21 had a career performance in his first career game as he scored 27 points, all coming off of three pointers. Abass Sallah ʼ21, another first-year, has already taken on the role of primary ball handler for the Garnet whenever Wiley is off the floor, and he recorded eight assists in the game against Hood. Ryan Ingram ʼ21 has also been playing significant minutes for the squad.

In terms of expectations coming into the season, Yonda’s might have been initially tempered.

“Because we have so many new, young guys, I realized coming into this season that we might have a slower start than past years. It’s a lot easier to start the season strong when we’ve have a team full of seniors and juniors that all have three plus years of experience under their belts. I wasn’t expecting us to struggle at the beginning because we brought back some key guys and brought in a ton of talent, but I was prepared to face some tough ‘learning experiences’ early on,” said Yonda.

However, as the Garnet have opened with a four-game win streak, the team’s performance has surely exceeded his initial expectations.

“The young guys have been doing an incredible job at picking things up quickly and absorbing information and have exceeded my expectations in that regard. Their performance so far is a huge part of why we already have four wins,” Yonda said.

Head coach Landry Kosmalski, in his five years at Tarble Pavilion, has managed to transform the Garnet from the dregs of the Centennial Conference into a regional powerhouse. Last year’s Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and two-time Centennial Conference Coach of the Year took over a team that had only won three games the previous year and by last year had brought them to NCAA tournament and their most successful season in program history.

The Garnet already have a game under their belt in conference play as they travelled down to Maryland to face the Shoremen of Washington College. Wiley scored a game-high 18 on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting as the Garnet pulled out a 79-70 victory in their lowest-scoring game of the year. Yonda added 17 points, including seven from the charity stripe. Shafer and O’Dell both had near double-doubles as Shafer went for 11 points and nine rebounds while O’Dell scored 10 and grabbed eight boards, in addition to adding four blocks.

If there is anything to complain about in the Garnet’s performance so far, it might be their slow starts. In their game against Albertus Magnus, they trailed at the half before going on to win by a comfortable 10-point margin. In their game against Misericordia, they only scored 33 in the first half to find themselves tied, before going on to score an astounding 60 points in the final twenty minutes. The Garnet have consistently made up for any slow starts with rousing second-half performances and have managed to win all their games by fairly comfortable margins.

“We’re winning games because we are talented and can really turn it on for short periods in games which not many teams can handle. You saw that in the Misericordia game with the second-half run that blew the game open. I think we’re doing a good job right now sharing the ball and getting good shots on offense, and also our bigs are doing a tremendous job defensively protecting the rim,” said Yonda.

The Garnet open home conference play tonight against Muhlenberg at 8:00 p.m. as they hope to keep their hot start going. Perhaps another NCAA tournament appearance awaits later this season. In any case, they’ll surely be an exciting team to watch.  

Men’s Basketball beats Dickinson, crowned CC Champs

in Men by

Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is known as being one of the loudest sports venues in the world. Tarble Pavilion just might have given it a run for its money this past Friday and Saturday as the Men’s Basketball team competed for and won the Centennial Conference championship for the first time in school history. Tarble was filled to capacity as students crowded the arena to watch Swarthmore’s blowout win over Ursinus College in the semifinals and their hard-fought win over Dickinson College, securing the trophy along with their first conference championship.

Now the Garnet is participating in the NCAA championship tournament for the first time in program history. They secured an automatic berth because of their conference win. They were  selected to host the first two rounds of the tournament for their pod of four, which includes the College of Staten Island, Christopher Newport University, and Morrisville State University. The basketball team will have the chance to play at least the first two rounds for the national championship in front of their home crowd.

The Semifinal game against Ursinus started out fairly close, with Ursinus trailing by four points early in the second half. At that point, the Garnet began to turn it on, unleashing a scoring barrage that saw them go up by 21 points with six minutes remaining. The Garnet settled down to hold on to a comfortable 86-66 win over the visiting Bears amidst an electric Tarble Pavilion crowd. The Garnet were able to get many players involved in that game as six players scored in the double digits and center Robbie Walsh ’18 recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

However, point guard Cam Wiley ’19 led the Garnet in the championship game, scoring 28 points and shooting over 60% from the field and from 3-point range. This performance secured him the tournament MVP award, to go along with his unanimous selection as All-Centennial Conference First Team and Centennial Conference Player of the Year award. This game was one of the most hard-fought for the Garnet all season. Dickinson led at the half by four after going on a hot streak to end the period. Halfway through the second half, they extended the lead to 11 points. But the Garnet showed off their resilience, going on a 12-0 run to regain the lead, holding that lead for the rest of the game.

Wiley was especially impressive down the stretch, hitting a handful of three-pointers to keep Dickinson at bay and drawing chants of MVP every time he touched the ball from the raucous Swarthmore crowd. As the clock ran out, students had to be restrained so the Dickinson team could leave the court before the Swarthmore student section rushed the court and mob the basketball team.

Starting shooting guard Zack Yonda ’18 said, To win the first Centennial Conference title in school history in front of our home crowd is something that myself, and people around here will never forget. To do it with a group of guys who I plan to know for the rest of my life made it even more special.”

Wiley, who started the season as a reserve, saw his play time and statistics balloon after his freshman season in which he only played 14 games. This year, he was second in the conference in points per game and 8th in assists per game. Yonda contributed 13 points in the final’s win to cap his junior campaign which saw him break the career 1,000 point mark and be named to the All-Centennial Conference Second Team.

The Garnet faced tough matchups all year leading up to this conference tournament.

Being the preseason #1 seed in conference, every team that played us was an underdog, and because of that we got everyone’s best shot night after night. Additionally, we played much better competition in our non-conference schedule this year to better our chances of getting an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament,” Yonda said.

But the Garnet constantly fought through adversity, including the loss of point guard Matt Brennan ’18, to earn the first-seed in the conference, the right to host the tournament, and eventually the championship win.

“Since long before I arrived, every guy on the roster and every coach on the bench has been sacrificing themselves for the good of the team. The product of all that sacrifice is our unparalleled cohesiveness, our undying passion, and a spirit that earned us the title of Centennial Conference champions,” forward Nate Shafer ’20, the Centennial Conference leader in blocks, said.

Head Coach Landry Kosmalski, in fifth season at Swarthmore, has truly been a game-changer for the Garnet. He has coached them to consecutive 22-win seasons, as well as their first ever NCAA tournament berth. He now leads the Garnet into uncharted territory, as they compete in their first ever NCAA tournament. Kosmalski is also now a back-to-back recipient of the Centennial Conference Coach of the Year Award, and with him at the helm and plenty of young talent coming in, the Garnet look poised for success now and in years to come.

Yonda put it best, “For the first time in decades, Swarthmore men’s basketball is on the map and here to stay!”

Men’s Basketball Blows Blue Jays Away

in Men by

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.

Men’s Basketball Continues to Rise in NCAA Top 25

in Columns/Sports by

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.

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