SWARTHMORE, Pa. – The Haverford College women's basketball team withstood a late charge from Tri-Co rival Swarthmore, holding on for a 59-58 victory in the regular season finale on Wednesday evening at the Tarble Pavilion. The contest featured five ties and five lead changes before the Fords were able to stave off one last challenge from the Garnet. Senior co-captain Sierra Berkel tied a career best with 24 points while senior co-captain Samantha Wetzel notched her 10th double-double of the season with 15 points and a season-best 18 rebounds to lead the Fords. Haverford enters the Centennial Conference tournament with a 20-5 overall record and a 16-4 mark in the Centennial Conference.
Haverford fell behind early, watching the host Garnet pull out to an early 11-2 advantage. A 6-0 Haverford run was capped by a Berkel layup as suddenly Haverford was down by just one possession with 3:05 left in the first quarter. A 5-0 spurt for Swarthmore gave the Garnet an eight point lead but Maddie Gallic drained a three-pointer in the final seconds, pulling Haverford to within five down 16-11.
In the second quarter, the Fords were still forced to play catch up with a Wetzel jumper cutting the lead for the Garnet to just two at 20-18 with 7:09 remaining in the half. An Abigail Pirron three-pointer restored a six point lead for Swarthmore, but Gallic responded with a layup on the other end. Haverford then unleashed a 13-2 run to end the half, tying the score on a Berkel layup with 2:54 remaining before eventually taking a seven point advantage into the intermission at 36-29.
Haverford stretched the lead to a game-high nine points with a Gallic layup to begin the quarter, but a 10-0 run for Swarthmore put the hosts up 39-38 as Bridget Scott capped the run by hitting a pair of free throws. Berkel and Wetzel keyed a 7-0 run by the Fords as Haverford answered the Swarthmore spurt and put the visitors up by six at 45-39 with 1:28 left in the third.
Undaunted, Swarthmore responded with a 6-0 run of its own to close out the quarter as Pirron and Kendall Tribus connected from beyond the arc to tie the score at 45-45. Tribus beat the buzzer at the end of the third with a long heave from deep three-point range.
In the early goings of the fourth, no team could garner much separation until Berkel finished a three-point play with 6:38 to go in regulation, converting at the line for a 51-49 lead. Wetzel finished a layup to put Haverford up six at 57-51 with 2:57 to go.
A 4-0 stretch for Swarthmore cut the lead to just two at 57-55, and with Haverford regaining possession, Swarthmore fouled Macy Goldbach. Goldbach hit a pair from the line four a four point lead with only 21 seconds to go in regulation. With Swarthmore content with trading twos for threes, Tribus connected on another corner three with 16 seconds to play, cutting the Haverford lead to just one at 59-58.
On the ensuing Haverford posession, a backcourt violation was called on the Fords, restoring possession for Swarthmore with the shot clock off and a chance to win the contest. Raina Williams initially appeared to have the winning basket for the hosts, but her attempt was waved off by a traveling violation, allowing Haverford to escape with the victory in a contest that was in the balance until the final horn sounded.
In addition to strong nights from Berkel and Wetzel, Gallic was also in double figure scoring with 11 points. Wetzel was a force defensively, tallying six blocks on the night in addition to the rebounding effort. Haverford was an uncharacteristic 1-13 from three-point range while Swarthmore was 8-14 from three-point distance. Pirron and Isabelle Ewart each had 13 points to pace Swarthmore. Ewart had five assists. Williams chipped in nine points and eight rebounds for the Garnet.
With the victory, Haverford reaches the 20-win plateau for the second time in program history, with the 2017-18 squad joining the 2013-14 team that finished 24-4 en route to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Fords now turn their attention to the Centennial Conference tournament, which will follow a bye to close the season. Haverford will next be in action in the Centennial semifinals on Friday, February 23 against Muhlenberg on the campus of Gettysburg College. Tip-off time is to be determined.