SWARTHMORE, Pa. – Thursday night's game for the Haverford College men's basketball team was everything a rivalry matchup should be. The Fords and No. 17 Garnet traded blows throughout the night, but ultimately it was the host Garnet that came away with a 64-62 Centennial Conference victory. However, the contest was in doubt up until the final buzzer as the Fords got a defensive stop late and once again had a shot for the tie or the win as the final whistle sounded.
Haverford's tough defense limited Swarthmore to its lowest scoring outing since December 5, a span of 11 games. That defensive intensity kept the score tight throughout as the game was a one possession difference for the vast majority of play and reached more than a two possession difference on just one occasion. The Hood Trophy battle ended with 17 lead changes and six tied scores.
Despite Swarthmore jumping out to a lead in the opening minutes, the Fords held the lead for much of the opening half. Jesse Turkson opened the scoring with two of his 12 points on the opening Haverford possession, but the Garnet eventually built a 14-9 lead. That five point lead was the Garnet's largest of the opening half, but it did not last for long as Jack Cork, Turkson, and Kahlil Garnes ran off six straight Haverford points to take a 15-14 lead
The Fords built their lead to three points, 21-18, when Kyle Goldfarb came up with a steal on the defensive end and got the hoop and the harm at the other end for a three-point play. With both teams continuing to trade the lead, Haverford was still holding a 25-22 advantage with 2:51 to play as Garnes knocked down a jumper as part of his team-high 14 point evening. Haverford looked poised to carry a 27-26 lead into the locker room, but Swarthmore's leading scorer – Conor Harkins – connected from distance right at the buzzer for his first points of the night, giving his side a 29-27 lead after 20 thrilling minutes.
However, the excitement was far from over. Haverford wasted little time throwing the first counter-punch of the second half as Joe Wujciak knocked down a triple right out of the gates to reclaim the lead. Swarthmore answered with a basket of its own from Zac O'Dell. The Garnet held that lead all the way up until there was four minutes to go in the contest, but the Fords were never out of range for a comeback.
After Garnes dropped a three-pointer on the previous possession, Joe Scibelli went to work in the paint against the Garnet big men. He was rewarded with a trip to the free throw line and connected on both to give his side a 57-56 lead with 4:05 to play. Scibelli battled early foul trouble and finished the night with 12 points. A layup from Turkson answered two points in the paint from the Garnet, but it was a Garnes three-pointer off a nifty pass from Joe Hartman that put the Fords up by two, 62-60, with 3:08 to play.
Swarthmore's answer came from Nate Shafer as his layup tied the game at 62-all with 2:14 to play. Both sides got defensive stops on their respective ends of the court, but an offensive board and second chance basket from Shafter put the hosts up 64-62 with 58 seconds to play. Haverford saw its chance at the game-tying basket swatted away with forty seconds to play, but the Fords got a defensive stand of their own to set up a chance for the win with 8.2 second to go. Despite calling for a timeout, the swarming defense of the Garnet never allowed the Fords to get a great look at the basket as the potential game-winning attempt from three came up short of the iron.
In a battle of the two best rebounding teams in the Centennial Conference, Swarthmore held a slight 41-36 edge in that category. That included 14 offensive rebounds which allowed the Garnet to hold a slight 15-11 advantage in second chance points. Both sides shot just over 41 percent from the field. That defensive battle was also a very clean game as the two sides combined for just 17 fouls. Haverford was 5-for-5 at the line, while the Garnet took just four shots from the charity stripe. Haverford also took very good care of the ball with 13 assists and just eight turnovers. Four different Fords came up with a steal on the defensive end.
Men's Basketball will wrap up its three-game road trip this Saturday at Gettysburg. The Fords defeated the Bullets by a 72-70 score inside Gooding Arena when they met back in the beginning of December. Saturday's tip is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will follow the women's contest which is slated for a 1 p.m. start.