Men’s basketball defeats Haverford on Senior Day

Easy? No. Nothing has been easy for men’s basketball this year. The 0-6 start. The head coach’s resignation mid-season. The 14-game losing streak where it seemed like the breaks would never go the Garnet’s way. None of it was easy, and while there’s no one who would say that this is the way they wanted or expected this year to go, it’s hard to imagine that everything the team has been through didn’t add up to make their last victory that much sweeter.

The clock ran down in Tarble Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, after two free throws from Will Gates ’13 — his final two points in a standout season — put the Garnet up by 14 over Haverford. A meaningless three from the Fords, and it was all over. Swarthmore 91, Haverford 80 on Senior Day. The first time in this Senior Day tradition that the Garnet came out on top and the first time in eleven games that

Swarthmore (3-22, 3-15 in conference play) has beaten Haverford (9-15, 7-10 in conference play).

“Ending the season like that was all we could have asked for,” Gates said. “It was such an emotional victory. With the frustration from the rest of the season, it was only fitting to beat Haverford for the first time in five years. It really felt great to send the seniors out with their first win over Haverford.

“Everybody has worked so hard this year that it sucked to not really have that show up in our record. I’m glad people finally got to see what kind of a team we are, especially because our win was such a team effort. It was by far our best game this year and really was well deserved.”

As the Swarthmore Athletics website noted in the run-up to Saturday’s game, this is the 162nd time, or the equivalent of a full baseball season, that Swarthmore and Haverford have played each other in men’s basketball. Swarthmore now holds a 91-71 edge.

After being honored before their last game in a Swarthmore uniform, seniors Michael Giannangeli and Marc Rogalski showed why the team will miss them next year. Rogalski recorded his second career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Giannangeli’s 19 points were a career-high. He also added 11 points in the second half to ensure that he, Rogalski, and the team would go out on a high note.

Maybe it would sound like a better story if the Garnet won this one on a last-chance three or mounted the type of furious comeback they haven’t been able to all year. Instead, the Garnet led virtually the entire game, taking a 4-2 lead two minutes in and never looking back. At last, at long last, what the team showed in fits and starts during the season came together for 40 minutes. The 91 points the team put up was the most they had scored in four years, since the end of the 2007-2008 season, when a whole different team was playing in Tarble Pavilion.

Those 91 points meant that there was room for players besides Rogalski and Giannangeli to shine. Forward Davis Ancona ’14 played the best game of his Garnet career on Saturday with career highs in points (19), blocked shots (6) and rebounds (8). Jordan Federer ’14 added a team-high seven assists, and finished the year ranked sixth in the conference with 2.8 assists per game. Off the bench, Joe Keedy contributed four points and three rebounds, while Jay Kober added three points and two boards.

Gates’s 20 points and 11 boards put the finishing touch on a season that has solidified his place among the conference’s elite players and remained a bright spot for the Garnet throughout. His 18 points per game ranked fourth in the conference this season, his 6.7 rebounds per game ranked sixth.

This Tuesday, he was named to the All-Centennial Conference Second Team.

Gates, when asked about his performance this year, stressed areas he felt continue to warrant improvement.

“I don’t think I attacked the basket as much as I have in the past, sometimes settling for the outside shot a little too much,” Gates said.

“[The team is] more effective when we attack the basket, so I really hope I can do a little more of that next year.

“I also did not get to the free throw line as much as I should have. Going into next year we should have a lot of confidence that we have the parts to be a tough team and hopefully that shows. I am definitely going to do my part this off season to prepare myself for next year and will do my best to make sure that everyone is prepared for next year.”

Despite losing to Swarthmore for the first time in nearly five years, Haverford played a resilient game, staying with the Garnet until the final minutes.

As it has all year, Haverford’s backcourt was able to put up the points; guard Ian Goldberg led all scorers with 30 points, while Cam Baker added 20 of his own. No other member of Haverford reached double digits.

Following the conclusion of the game, the seniors expressed nostalgia for what they had just finished.

“Senior Day was really a mix of emotions for me,” Rogalski said in an email. I could not believe this was the last time I would take the floor with my teammates, but at the same time I was extremely focused and determined to beat Haverford. It’s one of the few things I had left to accomplish in my career at Swarthmore, and I feel very fulfilled. To have all of my family and friends present just made the victory that much better.”

There’s no denying it: the final numbers don’t look good. On Saturday, it didn’t matter.

“The most important thing is this,” Rogalski said. “When I look back on my career at Swarthmore, I won’t remember all the losses and difficulties I faced along the way. I’ll remember how a great group of guys came together and finished the season with a victory.”

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