Owls Give Swarthmore All They Can Handle In Conference Showdown

Halena Martin dribbles against Swarthmore in December 2018

BRYN MAWR, Pa. - It was a Tri-Co battle on the Class of 1958 Gymnasium floor earlier Wednesday night, as the Owls welcomed Swarthmore to campus to renew their recent rivalry. The Owls played some great basketball all the way through the contest, giving Swarthmore a big test on the night. Halena Martin led the way for the Owls with 19 points, and Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson added another 16 for Bryn Mawr, as the hosts were able to take a lead midway through the second quarter. However, the Garnet were able to charge back and take the lead, and then hold off a Bryn Mawr rally late to ultimately claim a 70-59 win in the end. Swarthmore was led by 11 points apiece from Abigail Pirron and Karinna Papke.

Brendan Harrison got Bryn Mawr an early lead, as she nailed a jump shot on the Owls' second possession of the game. Swarthmore responded with a couple baskets of their own to get a lead of their own, but two free throws from Elizabeth Chan knotted things right back up. The first quarter remained very low-scoring, as the next points didn't come until there was just 2:54 to play in the frame. A pair of free throws for Swarthmore helped the visitors regain their lead, but Chan responded again with a layup to make it 6-6. The teams continued to trade points, as two more Garnet free throws were met by a jumper by Martin, and then the Owls responded to a Swarthmore three-pointer with another jumper from Martin in the final seconds of the quarter, sending the teams to the first break with the Garnet holding a slim 11-10 lead.

Another three-ball for Swarthmore helped the visitors open up their biggest advantage to that point in the night, but the Owls stuck with it and responded with a few big baskets of their own. Martin hit a layup after a strong offensive rebound, and then after a Swarthmore layup, she nailed a jumper from the top of the key. That got the Owls back within two, and then Bryn Mawr vaulted ahead thanks to a huge three-pointer from Elizabeth-Robertson on a great pass from Martin. A Swarthmore layup momentarily put the Garnet back out in front, but Martin drilled another jump shot to give Bryn Mawr a 19-18 lead. After a missed jumper on the other end, Chan pulled down a strong defensive rebound, leading to a breakout and an easy layup for Elizabeth-Robertson after a great assist from Laya Paladugu. That gave the Owls a 21-18 advantage, and forced Swarthmore head coach to take out her frustrations with a quick timeout.

Unfortunately for the Owls, that stoppage proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Swarthmore. In what proved to be arguably the biggest stretch of the game, the Garnet roared back with a 15-0 run over the next four minutes of action. In that run, Swarthmore went 6-for-10 from the floor (including a three-pointer) and knocked down two free throws, while also forcing two Bryn Mawr turnovers and holding the Owls scoreless on all seven of their shot attempts. By the time Elizabeth-Robertson finally ended that rally with another jumper, Swarthmore had flipped the scoreboard and built a 33-23 lead as the teams headed into the halftime break.

Despite the setback late in the second quarter, the Owls came out determined to get back in the game after halftime. Chan got things started on the right track with a bucket right out of the break, and after a Swarthmore basket, the Owls trimmed the Garnet's lead even further thanks to another three from Elizabeth-Robertson. The senior knocked down another jumper moments later, and with that the Owls had halved their deficit with over 15 minutes of gametime remaining. That five-point margin remained over the next several minutes, as Odinaka Oranekwu and Laya Paladugu knocked down baskets of their own to combat a pair of Swarthmore field goals. That paved the way for Bryn Mawr to get even closer, as Martin made another huge play with 3:28 to go in the quarter. The junior barreled down the lane on a hard drive to the basket, converting a short jumper while also being fouled. Martin would knock down the ensuing free throw, and suddenly the Owls were all the way back within two at 39-37. Swarthmore hit back-to-back baskets to bump their lead back up, but the Owls would not relent, answering with buckets from Martin and a deep three in the corner from Paladugu to keep the two-point margin in place late in the third quarter.

Things stayed close in the early part of the final frame as well. Swarthmore momentarily bumped their lead back out to seven, but free throws from Chan and then a pair of baskets from Martin kept the Owls within reach, as they trailed just 54-48. A few baskets later, a jumper from Chan made it 52-58, but Bryn Mawr just could not get enough stops and baskets of their own over the final five minutes. Swarthmore was able to bump their lead out to eight, and then ten before a free throw from Lipi Paladugu made it single digits once again. Later, Elizabeth-Robertson hit two freebies of her own to get Bryn Mawr back within seven, but that was as close as the Owls could get from there. Needing to foul late to stop the clock and get the ball back, Bryn Mawr was unable to get baskets on the other end, and Swarthmore converted well enough at the free throw line to ultimately walk away with a 70-59 win on the evening.

The result is tough to match with the box score, as the Owls actually outshot the Garnet by a small margin. Ultimately, it was that 15-0 run late in the second quarter that seems to have been the tipping point in the contest, as neither side truly outdid the other by a wide margin in any major statistical category. Tonight's result is certainly one that the Owls will look to bounce back strong from, as they get another crack at Swarthmore later this season. First, however, comes a matchup against Ursinus on Saturday. Bryn Mawr continues their four-game homestand this weekend by taking on the Bears, with tipoff in the Class of 1958 Gymnasium slated for 1:00 PM.