HAVERFORD, Pa. - A tough, defensive struggle ended with a game-winning three-pointer from Elizabeth Lynch as Haverford College's women's basketball team downed visiting Swarthmore, 45-41, in Centennial Conference action Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale.
Both Haverford (15-9, 12-8 CC) and the Garnet (19-6, 15-5) will head into next week's Centennial playoffs, but the Fords will take the momentum from Saturday's hard-fought victory into the tournament while Swarthmore must regroup after the loss.
Dominique Meeks, playing in her final game on the Gooding Arena floor, paced the Fords with 10 points and nine rebounds. Lynch and Calla Miller added nine points apiece with Shannon Smith coming away with eight more for the Fords. Miller also ripped down nine rebounds for Haverford.
Katie Lytle finished with a double-double in Swarthmore's losing effort, pouring in game-highs in points, 18, and rebounds, 15.
Lynch's clinching bucket came at the 33-second mark with the score knotted at 41-41, which was the sixth tie in the second half and ninth time the two teams were all square in the afternoon. Following a timeout, Jacquelyne Pizzuto settled along the baseline to the left of the basket to inbound the ball. A well-executed baseline out-of-bounds play brought Lynch cleanly off a Miller screen.
Pizzuto delivered the ball and Lynch made the most of the opportunity. The ball bounced once off the back of the rim, popped four feet up then came straight down, ripping through the net cords to send the crowd of more than 200 into delirium.
Swarthmore drove the length of the court but, in a rush, tossed the ball out of bounds with 25 seconds on the clock. The Garnet's sin at that point in the game was that they had not fouled enough as it took four fouls over 10 seconds to finally reach their seventh foul to put the Fords at the free throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity.
Miller, another senior closing out her Gooding Arena career, was the lucky Ford on that fourth foul, making the front-end before missing the second try. It didn't matter, though, as the four-point lead made it a two-possession game and Swarthmore only had enough time to get off one, final three-point try that missed the mark.
The two defenses ruled the day, evidenced in part by the meager shooting percentages both offenses settled for -- 31 percent from the floor for Haverford and 29 percent for the Garnet. Swarthmore was an even chillier nine percent from beyond the arc succeeding on just two of its 22 attempts.
The opening 20 minutes played a bit freer than the closing 20 as each team broke out to its largest leads of the game -- six points, for both teams -- within the first half. The second half played much tighter as the two-point halftime lead, 24-22, Haverford took into the locker room was nearly the maximum advantage the two combatants would own over the closing half.
Haverford led by three at the 16:25 mark and Swarthmore was able to turn the tables and advance to a three-point edge two minutes later. Beyond those two instances, the margin was by one point on nine different occasions within eight lead changes.
Prior to Saturday's game the program's Class of '13 was honored with parents at their sides.
In addition to Meeks and Miller, Victoria Sobocinski and team manager Meredith Schoyer, who played her first three seasons, were also honored. Sobocinski finished Saturday with two points, four rebounds and a game-high six assists.
The victory over the Garnet pushed Haverford ahead, 4.0-3.5, in the annual Hood Trophy competition between the two schools. It also moved the Fords' conference record into a tie for the most wins in a season, set last winter when Haverford qualified for its first Centennial tournament, winning its inaugural playoff game before falling in the semifinal round.
The 2013 Centennial playoffs begin Wednesday, Feb. 20. Haverford, the No. 5 seed, travels to Baltimore to take on fourth-seed and host Johns Hopkins University. The semifinals and final will take place at Gettysburg College, the regular season champion, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23.