When Swarthmore and Gettysburg last met in December, it was a low-scoring, defense-oriented affair that wasn’t decided until the final few seconds. In the season rematch on Saturday, it was more of the same as the top two teams in the Centennial Conference fought through a back-and-forth game marked by extremely close play. This time, the Bullets came out on top, scoring with 7.8 seconds left in the game to escape Tarble Pavilion with a 55-54 victory.
The loss dropped the Garnet, who last week were receiving votes in the D3hoops.com national poll, to 15-3, 11-2 in conference play. Despite the loss, the Garnet still hold a one game lead in the Centennial standings, keeping them in the fight for not only a spot in the conference playoffs, but an all-important first round bye. As Katie Lytle ’14 pointed out, this means that going into the last few games of the regular season, the team is “fortunate to be in control of our own [playoff] destiny.” She added, “I think it’s most important for us to just take it one game at a time…We just need to continue to play as team and finish the season strong.”
Entering the waning seconds of the game, the Garnet were in a strong position to win after Elle Larsen ’15 put the team up 54-53 with 26 seconds to go. Even after the Bullets regained the lead, 7.8 seconds was plenty of time for one last play. Unfortunately, the final push of the game fell short of the basket.
Although Swarthmore came out on the wrong side of the game’s outcome, the team was led by some exceptional performances on both offense and defense. Larsen led all scorers with a career high 23 points, while Lytle recorded her seventh consecutive double-double and twelfth this season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. She also forced several Gettysburg turnovers, coming away with five steals on the day.
For her efforts against Gettysburg and last week’s 69-44 win over Haverford (15 points and 16 rebounds in a strong all-around performance), Lytle was named the Centennial Conference Player of the Week. This is the second time she has been recognized by the conference this season.
The Garnet looked to rebound from their setback last night against Muhlenberg. Going into the game, Lytle said Swarthmore needed to “refocus on trying to do the little things that can make a big difference in games.” While she felt the game would be tough, she added, “I think losing to Gettysburg will give us extra motivation to play well and prove why we are first in the conference.” That motivation showed as Swarthmore took down the Mules 68-66. Kayla Moritzky made a three-pointer at the buzzer to clinch the victory, but the Garnet had previously led by as much as 14 points. Lytle and Eliza Polli ’13 led the way with 17 points each, while Jessica Jowdy ’16 added 16 of her own.
Players said that the team had two main goals coming out of winter break: to win twenty games on the season, and to win the conference title outright. Entering the last few games of the regular season, Lytle believed the team was “in a good position” to achieve those goals.
Accomplishing the team goals could come quite quickly in fact, as Swarthmore next embarks on a grueling stretch of four games in eight days, beginning with Saturday’s game at Johns Hopkins. The next home game is Monday, February 4, as the Garnet play host to McDaniel. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM.