Swarthmore students, fans, and alumni stormed Tarble Pavilion on Saturday, March 11 after Swarthmore men’s basketball secured a last-minute victory over Nichols College. The Garnet beat the Bison with a final score of 78-77 in the last eight seconds of the game after having trailed behind the Bison for the majority of the match-up and the entirety of the second half. The No. 7 ranked Garnet will travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana to compete against No. 2 ranked Christopher Newport University in the NCAA Final Four on Thursday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m.
With the exception of the 2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Garnet have consecutively qualified for the NCAA tournament since 2017, ascending to the Elite Eight round in 2018, the finals in 2019, and the Sweet Sixteen in 2020. The Garnet kicked off their participation in this year’s NCAA tournament late last month, and this season marks the first time since 2019 that the Garnet have punched a ticket to the Final Four.
Swarthmore faced No. 5 ranked Keene State in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen match-up on Friday, March 10. The game was steeped in revenge, as the Owls had eliminated the Garnet on Tarble Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA tournament just last year. The Garnet dominated the Owls, 82-58, to advance to the Elite Eight round against Nichols College.
Fueled by the cheering crowd and pure adrenaline, Swarthmore men’s basketball battled in the most intense and aggressive game of their season yet. The Bison led for almost the entire game, yet the Garnet managed to keep the score close, responding to Nichols’ points with buckets of their own.
Swarthmore men’s basketball head coach Landry Kosmalski described the Garnet’s initial reaction to Nichols’ unexpected tactics.
“We were preoccupied with trying to figure out how to attack their funky zone and stop them from getting layups in transition,” he reflected. “Fortunately, we didn’t have time to panic because we were constantly grasping for answers … to Nichols’s credit.”
But with two minutes left in the second half, the Garnet were behind by only four, hoping for a quick offensive drive to take the lead. Yet a Bison lay-up with 1:36 minutes to go increased their lead to six points. The Garnet responded immediately with a three-pointer by Vinny DeAngelo ’24 to narrow the deficit to three. Nichols earned a pair of free throws and sank both to increase their lead to five points. With a minute to spare, George Visconti ’24 drained a two-pointer to bring the Garnet within three points again. After another defensive foul was called on the Garnet, Nichols had another pair of free throws, but this time, the opponent only sank one.
An impressive and much-needed three-pointer by Visconti came with 49 seconds left, bringing the Garnet within one point of the Bison, 77-76. The Garnet could taste the opportunity for victory, and with just eight seconds to spare, Colin Shaw ’23 fed the ball to Michael Caprise ’24 in the paint. The big man posted up his defender and made the game-winning hook shot to earn a 78-77 victory.
Caprise reflected on his game-winning two-pointer, as well as the team’s Hail Mary efforts to bring the Garnet into a winning position towards the end of the game.
“It was definitely a pretty cool feeling. Even cooler to me, though, was watching my teammates fight down the stretch to put us in [a] position to win the game,” he shared. “DeAngelo and Visconti both hit huge shots in the closing minutes, and we had to really fight on the defensive end. Overall, it was just a really special moment to share together.”
The fans rushed to the court to celebrate the Garnet’s hard-fought victory. Everyone gathered to watch the players ceremoniously cut down the basket’s netting, signifying their status as Sectional Champions.
Kosmalski commented on the celebration, indicating it as a special moment for Swarthmore fans.
“Saturday was special because it was in front of our home crowd. Our players were excited to share that moment with their families and friends.”
The Garnet flew out to Fort Wayne on Tuesday morning in anticipation of Thursday’s game against Christopher Newport. They will be practicing as they have all season, preparing their minds and bodies to bring their best to the court.
As the Garnet prepares in Fort Wayne, fans at home are expressing their excitement for the game. In an email to the Swarthmore community on Monday, March 13, President Valerie Smith shared her support for the Garnet, recognizing the thrill of having Swarthmore represented in the NCAA Final Four.
“What an exciting time on campus! … The Swarthmore community congratulates all of our student-athletes; coaches; Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation staff; and everyone who contributed to an incredible year for the Garnet,” Smith wrote.
In an email to the Swarthmore community on Tuesday, March 14, Director of Student Activities and Leadership Rebecca Weintraub-Barth announced that the college will host a watch party and live stream of the basketball game on Thursday in Science Center 101 Chang Hou Lecture Hall. Should the Garnet move on to the NCAA finals, the college will live stream the game again on Saturday.