McDaniel comes back to beat women’s basketball

Kayla Moritzky of the Garnet. (Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

The Swarthmore women’s basketball team has only lost twice on the young season, but both losses have come complete with a knife that waits until the final minutes to stick itself into the team’s back.

On Tuesday, the visiting Garnet, who have already lost a one-point game in overtime this year, let a 15-point second-half lead slip through their fingers to fall to McDaniel 77-76. For Swarthmore (3-2, 1-1), it was their first conference loss of the season, while the Green Terror (4-1, 2-0) remain undefeated in Centennial play.

“The game was an eye opener for us,” Kayla Moritzky ‘14 said. “We had some strong moments, but we need to stop letting the last play of the game decide our fate.”

Guard Katie Lytle’ 14, who has come out of the gate as the team’s go-to scorer, once again led both teams by tying a career high with 22 points.

First-year forward Elle Larsen ’15 was next with 21 points, while Moritzky rode 14 points and a team-leading 11 assists to her first career double-double. Guard Eliza Polli also added nine points for the Garnet.

The Garnet got hot early against their conference rival, taking the lead in the first minute of the game and holding it until the final twenty seconds. Behind solid perimeter shooting and layups from Lytle and Larsen, the team went into the half leading 42-30 despite actually being outshot by the Green Terror 50 to 47 percent.

The aggressiveness of the Swarthmore defense paid dividends as well, as they forced a total of 30 turnovers including 16 steals.

“Our press was working,” Head Coach Renee DeVarney said, “but when they did shoot, we allowed them too many second chances.”

In the second half, while McDaniel failed to slow down the Garnet offensively, they closed the gap behind solid three-point shooting — 4 of 7 after failing to hit one in the first half — and overall 55 percent shooting from the field.

“They raised their intensity,” Lytle said, “and I don’t think we really matched that. We couldn’t really find a stop.

“I don’t know if we were content with the way things were and saw our lead disappear.”

With under twelve minutes left to play, however, it looked like Swarthmore’s cushion would simply prove too big.

The Garnet scored to take a 61-46 lead, and the game appeared to be iced away, and Swarthmore would improve to 4-1 on the season. From there, however, the Garnet shot just 4 for 17 as the Green Terror outscored the Garnet 31-15 for the rest of the game. This included a 9-1 run in the final 1:37 to close it out.

Swarthmore lost one of their key players in the final minutes, as Larsen fouled out of the game with just over two minutes to play. For Larsen, Tuesday was the third time this year that she had fouled out.

“She [has been a] stalwart player so far this year,” DeVarney said of Larsen, who started at center on Tuesday night.

“She is too good of a player to not be in the game at those key times.”

With thirty-one seconds to play, following a free-throw from Brittany Schmelz ’12 that put the Garnet up 76-73, McDaniel tied the game on a three-pointer from Emillee Bosley off a Steph Perez assist.

Following a turnover by Schmelz — one of 19 by the Garnet — and a foul on Perez by Moritzky, McDaniel sent their guard to the line with a chance to take their first lead since the opening seconds of the game.

In front of her home crowd, Perez sank the free throw, and after McDaniel’s Allie Eader grabbed the rebound off a missed jump shot by Moritzky, the comeback was complete.

“It’s the little things that are going to matter when our games are going to be close,” Lytle said. “Having a lot of turnovers in the first half, not getting as many rebounds as we should. Knowing it’s going to be close, we need to try to limit those mistakes in the first half.”

Off the bench, Genny Pezzola ’12 and Stephanie Lechich ’14 combined for 9 points and 3 rebounds. As a team, Swarthmore was out-rebounded 41-29 by McDaniel.

DeVarney summed up the game as, “our best offensive performance of the year and our worst defensive rebounding performance of the year.”

The Garnet resumes conference play tonight at home against the Muhlenberg Mules.

The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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