Men’s Basketball Back on Top

Swarthmore Athletics

There is no doubt Swarthmore men’s basketball has proved their worth all season long. With a 24-3 overall record and 16-2 conference record, they have showcased themselves as the team to beat. But after a shaky end to their regular season play, the Garnet are finally back on top … and determined to stay.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, Swarthmore came head-to-head with Gettysburg College in their last regular season match. Entering the game with a 16-1 conference record, the Garnet hoped to earn a victory over the Bullets to solidify their No. 1 seed spot going into the Centennial Conference playoffs. But alas, the Bullets unexpectedly bested the Garnet, 78-65, dropping the Garnet into the No. 2 seed heading into the conference tournament. 

Even so, Swarthmore was unphased when they heard it was the No. 3 Gettysburg College that they would have to face the following week in the semi-finals round of the Centennial Conference championships. Tarble Pavilion was electric on Friday, Feb. 24 as students, families, and professors came together to cheer on the Garnet as they fought to redeem themselves against the Bullets. The Garnet ultimately did what they do best, defeating the Bullets by a solid margin, 95-81, and sending them home with only the hope of trying again next year.

Re-ranked No. 15 in the nation, Swarthmore men’s basketball took to Baltimore, MD, to face the toughest of their competitors, No. 7 ranked Johns Hopkins University. In their last faceoff, the Garnet fell to the Blue Jays, 67-77, on the Blue Jays’ home court, marking their first conference loss. On Sunday, Feb. 26, the Garnet found themselves back on that same court, vying for the glittering Centennial Conference Championship trophy.

The Garnet had a rocky start, falling 0-8 within the first two minutes of the match. The Blue Jays increased their lead to twelve points with eleven minutes to go in the half. Although the Garnet responded with a layup and a jumper to cut their deficit to five points, the Blue Jays retaliated with another run to grow their lead to sixteen points with less than two minutes to spare in the half. The first half ended with a solid thirteen point lead for the Blue Jays, 40-27, leaving Johns Hopkins confident and the Garnet in need of a new strategy.

Junior guard Vinny DeAngelo ’24 recalled the half-time locker room talk that inspired the team. 

“We talked about the things that we were doing well, first off, which there were some of, and then we talked about the things we had to adjust, which there were definitely more of. Our coach came in and recalled back to one of our previous games on the road at Widener and talked about how we were down seven or eight points at half time, and within the first four minutes of the second half, we came back and had the lead. So we knew we could do it because we had done it before.” DeAngelo continued, “It was all about just doing the little details that got us to where we were in the first place and believing in each other and sticking to our standards. Just taking it possession by possession, minute by minute, and not looking ahead and not looking behind.”

The Garnet responded to the call, coming out with a vengeance in the second half. Swarthmore shaved the Blue Jays’ lead to single digits in the eighteenth minute, 43-34. However, the Blue Jays went on another run to earn another thirteen point lead, 57-44, with less than thirteen minutes to go. Again, the Garnet found their strength and chipped away at their deficit with discipline. They tied the match, 65-65, in the fifth minute for the first time since the opening tip off. 

From that moment on, Swarthmore locked down on defense. DeAngelo sank a game-changing three-pointer from the center of the arc to give Swarthmore a three-point lead with just 1:06 left on the clock. The Blue Jays managed a two-pointer of their own, but DeAngelo drained two more points on a pair of free throws with just seven seconds left to earn a Garnet victory.

In the most phenomenal second half comeback, the Garnet outscored the Blue Jays, 49-33, to end the game with a narrow but well-deserved victory, 76-73. The Garnet left Baltimore with the golden Centennial Conference Champions trophy in tow, sending a message to all that they are truly a team to be reckoned with.

DeAngelo, crowned Tournament Most Valuable Player, said, “It is an amazing feeling to win the Centennial Conference Championship. I have been to three championship games, and this is the first one I have been a part of that we have won. It is just an awesome feeling because you put in so much work during the year, during the preseason, and during the summer. You spend so much time with your friends and teammates, and to be able to share that joy with them once the final buzzer ends is hard to explain. It is just a surreal feeling.”

Earning an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, Swarthmore men’s basketball (24-3) will host SUNY Delhi (20-8) on Friday, March 3 in the first round of the tournament. If they win, the Garnet will play in and host the second round of the tournament on Sunday, March 5.

DeAngelo and the team are preparing for the NCAA tournament. 

“I think coming into the tournament, playing the way we are playing is giving us a lot of confidence, but we also know that at this point in the year, it is play or go home. So there is a certain urgency that we are practicing and playing with,” said DeAngelo.

Come out to Tarble Pavilion to watch the Garnet make their tournament debut! We wish them the best of luck.

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