BRYN MAWR, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr Owls and Swarthmore Garnet got together Monday evening for a Centennial Conference showdown that quickly turned into a classic as the two sides gave each other everything they had. With the two teams both in search of their first league win of the season and both statistically very similar, it was bound to be a tight contest and it certainly played out that way. Neither team held a lead bigger than six points in the entire game, and both sides seemed to get big baskets when they needed them down the stretch. Bryn Mawr outshot the visitors both overall and from beyond the arc on the night, but it was free throws that would prove to be the decisive factor in the final result. Swarthmore went 12-for-17 from the stripe on the night, including four big makes late in the game, to hang on late to win, while the Owls shot 4-for-12 from the free throw line in a tough 53-50 final. Laya Paladugu had a big night off the bench for the Owls, leading the way with 12 points and two assists. Halena Martin added ten more points and four blocks for Bryn Mawr, while Sydney Garner muscled her way a career-high 15 rebounds on the night. Swarthmore was led by Isabelle Ewart and Audra Woodside, who scored 13 and 10 points apiece for the visitors. Ewart was especially big late for the Garnet, going four-for-four from the free throw line in crucial late game situations.
Bryn Mawr got the game started on the right foot when Martin grabbed a defensive rebound, went the other way, and drained a deep three-pointer to open the night. Swarthmore rebounded from that to take a 7-3 lead before Martin drilled another three-ball, this time on a great feed from Brendan Harrison. Once again the Garnet made a couple baskets to pull back ahead but, in what would become a theme for the night, Bryn Mawr kept their opponents in striking distance the whole time. Sydney Garner went up strong for a defensive rebound and was rewarded later on in the ensuing Owls possession by earning a layup inside, courtesy of an assist from Odinaka Oranekwu. Later, Bryn Mawr hit their third three-pointer of the first quarter when Laya Paladugu stepped up and hit one from the wing. That sparked a seven-point run from the Owls as Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson and Elizabeth Chan each hit jumpers in the final two minutes of the period to give Bryn Mawr a 15-12 lead in the contest. Swarthmore would get a late basket before the quarter ended, but Bryn Mawr still took a lead into the second period.
This time, the Garnet would be the team to take an early lead in a frame, as the visitors started the second quarter on a 6-0 run to vault ahead 20-15. Bryn Mawr answered right back with baskets from Brendan Harrison and Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson. Then, after the two sides traded several empty possessions, the Owls would regain the lead for themselves, jumping ahead 22-20 on a layup from Oranekwu and a free throw by Chan. Swarthmore managed to come back from that deficit with another run of six points, but a layup from Laya Paladugu and a free throw by Garner helped the Owls enter halftime trailing just 28-25.
Coming out of the break, Swarthmore opened up their biggest lead of the game just 1:10 into the third quarter on a three-pointer by Ewart. Bryn Mawr answered back on their next two possessions, with Garner hitting another free throw and Martin nailing a jumper from the paint on a great pass by Chan. A little later in the quarter, Garner hit yet another free throw and then made a jumper from the top of the key to get Bryn Mawr within four at 31-35. A made layup from Paladugu and then a jumper from Chan helped the Owls get even closer at 35-37, and that two-point margin would remain almost the entire way through the rest of the game. Swarthmore would hit a shot and the Owls would answer right back, starting with a jumper from Halena Martin. Laya Paladugu got Bryn Mawr back within two with a layup on their next possession, and that ended the third quarter with Swarthmore still holding a slim 41-39 advantage.
Bryn Mawr got the ball to start the fourth quarter, but their first opportunity to tie or take the lead went awry after a turnover. In fact, the Owls would have five chances to tie or jump ahead in the early goings of the final frame, but three turnovers and three missed shots kept that from happening, and a Swarthmore layup at the 7:15 mark gave the visitors a four-point lead once again. Bryn Mawr answered back just over a minute later on a smooth baseline jumper by Elizabeth-Robertson. A basket from the Garnet's Abigail Posta on an offensive rebound gave Swarthmore their four-point cushion once again, but this time it was Paladugu who responded with a deep three on an assist from Brendan Harrison, and suddenly the Owls were within one. Once again, Bryn Mawr got a stop and the ball back with a chance to go ahead, but this time an offensive foul denied the Owls that opportunity, and another layup from Posta made it a 47-44 game in favor of the visitors with under five minutes left to play. Things were definitely tightening up in the Class of 1958 Gymnasium, as the two sides would each only score one basket on the next 11 possessions. However, another sweet jumper from Chan got Bryn Mawr back within one point with 1:18 to play in the contest.
That final minute and change seemed to be an eternity on a tightrope, as the game hung in the balance the entire way. On Swarthmore's next possession, the Garnet got a good luck, but missed a jumper and Chan pulled down a strong defensive rebound in traffic. After an Owls timeout, Coach Becky Tyler drew up a fantastic play to try and find an open player down low and get the Owls the lead. However, that shot missed, and despite an amazing offensive rebound from Sydney Garner, her layup attempt went begging as well, and Swarthmore's Abigail Pirron pulled down the defensive board with just 28 seconds left to play. With only two team fouls in the quarter, Bryn Mawr had to foul three times to stop the clock and send the Garnet to the line. That was where Ewart stepped up big for the visitors, draining a pair of free throws to give the Garnet a 51-48 lead with 16 seconds to go. A Bryn Mawr timeout allowed the hosts to advance the ball in front of their bench, and once again a great scheme from Tyler allowed Oranekwu to find herself wide open under the basket for an easy layup to get Bryn Mawr back within one with 12 seconds left to play. Once again the Owls fouled, and once again Ewart calmly stepped to the line and made her pair, getting Swarthmore a 53-50 advantage. The Owls used their final timeout and advanced the ball once again, this time looking for a three-pointer to tie the game. However, Halena Martin's effort came up just short, and Bryn Mawr was forced to foul once again to stop the clock with just three seconds left to play. Things still weren't done, though, as Pirron missed both her free throws, giving the Owls one last desperate chance to tie things up. Unfortunately, Martin's last-second heave went just wide of the basket, allowing Swarthmore to finally exhale with their three-point win.
Despite the result, there's certainly plenty to be positive about for the Owls. The team outshot the Garnet (33% to 29%), outshot them from three-point range (31% to 14%), and made more baskets than their opponents did (21 to 20). Halena Martin's four blocks on the night were the fourth-most for a player in a single game in Owls history. Where Swarthmore really gained ground was in making eight more free throws than Bryn Mawr and in scoring 12 points off of 23 Owls turnovers. Bryn Mawr did crest the 40-point mark against a Centennial Conference opponent for the fourth-straight game, and their 50 points tonight were a high for Bryn Mawr against a league opponent since late last season.
Bryn Mawr will be right back in action on Wednesday night to close out this tough five-game stretch. The Owls will return to the Class of 1958 Gymnasium floor to take on Ursinus College for a 7:00 PM tip. In the first matchup of these two teams this season, Ursinus scraped by with a 73-43 win at home.