Huge Rally Helps Women’s Basketball Stun Widener in Season Opener, 66-64

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Swarthmore College women’s basketball team opened the 2011-12 season with one of the biggest comebacks in program history, as the Garnet (1-0) rallied from down 16 points to stun homestanding Widener 66-64 on Tuesday evening.

Sophomore Katie Lytle led the way for the Garnet with a double-double, scoring a career high 22 points and adding a team-high 12 rebounds. Freshman Elle Larsen (12), sophomore Kayla Moritzky (12) and junior Eliza Polli (10) all scored in double figures for the Swarthmore, which wins its season opener for the first time since 2006.

Buoyed by Lytle’s 16 second-half points, the Garnet fought back with a furious rally. Trailing 62-58 with 1:09 left to play, Lytle drained a three-pointer to make it a 62-61 game before knotting it up at 62-62 with a free throw with :52 seconds left on the clock.

Over the game’s final minute Swarthmore won it at the line and with its defense.

The Garnet defense forced three-consecutive Pride turnovers over the final minute of play — including a huge charge from senior Brittany Schmelz.

Less than 30 seconds later, Swarthmore saw its first lead of the game when senior Nicole Rizzo sinked two pressure-packed free throws to put the Garnet up 64-62.

Moments later following another Pride turnover, Polli sealed the Swat come-from-behind victory with another pair of free-throws with :12 seconds left. The Pride managed to net one more basket with three seconds left but it was too little too late as Swarthmore moved to 1-0.

Swarthmore got out to a slow start in its season opener as a tough Widener team took advantage of 13 first half Swat’s turnovers and built a 16 point lead only nine minutes into the game. The Pride held onto its lead throughout the first half but Swat fought its way back to within seven thanks to a Moritzky three-point, buzzer-beater to close out the half.

In the second half, Widener kept its distance from Swarthmore for the first 12 minutes of play before the Garnet began its comeback run.

Down eight points with eight minutes to play, Swat went on a 12-4 scoring run, capped off by another Moritzky three to tie the game for the first time.

Vanessa Hejnas led Widener with 21 points. Joanna Persiano added 20.

With the win, Swarthmore takes a commanding 6-1 lead in the 2011-12 “320 Challenge”, a yearly competition between Widener and Swarthmore.

The Garnet women return to the court on Saturday in its home opener when it hosts the Swarthmore Tip-Off Tournament.  Swarthmore opens the tournament against Middlebury at 1:00 PM.

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