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Owls Nearly Topple Swarthmore but Suffer Late Loss

Laya Paldugu takes on Swarthmore in early 2018

SWARTHMORE, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr basketball team nearly got a big monkey off their back earlier Thursday night at Swarthmore. The Owls totally dominated play for three quarters of the game, taking a four-point lead into the final quarter. However, the Garnet exploded for twenty points in the final frame, and in the final minutes the basket seemed to constrict for the Bryn Mawr offense. Ultimately, Swarthmore was able to complete the comeback and protect their home court with a 61-56 win. Halena Martin and Laya Paladugu each had huge nights for Bryn Mawr offensively, as Martin led the way with 22 points. Paladugu tied a career-best with a 17-point performance, including going three-for-six from beyond the arc. For Swarthmore, forward Audra Woodside led the way with a 21-point effort, while Raina Williams added another 14.

Elizabeth Chan got Bryn Mawr out in front early on with a defensive rebound and layup on the other end of the floor. In fact, the Owls would open the game on a seven-point run, as Martin followed that up with a deep three and then Laya Paladugu hit a layup on an assist from the sophomore forward. Swarthmore managed to trim their deficit down to two, but a basket from Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson helped keep the Owls in front. Later, Martin would hit a pair of free throws, and then Chan closed out the first quarter with a great driving layup to give Bryn Mawr a 13-8 lead after one.

The Owls continued their hot start in the second frame, with Martin giving Bryn Mawr another seven-point lead thanks to a jumper just twelve seconds into the quarter. However, Swarthmore put together a six-point rally of their own to battle all the way back within one. Bryn Mawr would not give up their hard-fought lead easily though. On the next Owls possession, the team battled their way to two big offensive rebounds before Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson hit a layup to extend Bryn Mawr's lead back out to three.

Swarthmore finally managed to get out in front midway through the second quarter thanks to made baskets on two possessions. That lead was short-lived, though, as Martin immediately canned a three-ball on a feed from Laya Paladugu to put Bryn Mawr right back in front. Elizabeth-Robertson hit another layup to extend Bryn Mawr's lead again, and after a Swarthmore jumper, Laya Paladugu made it a five-point advantage with a three-pointer of her own. Swarthmore came back to tie things up once more, and the two teams traded the lead back-and-forth over the next few possessions. Halena Martin made one last trip to the line inside the final minute of the quarter, and those two free throws would prove to be the final points of the half, and they put Bryn Mawr back ahead 29-27 at the break.

That stoppage did no damage to Bryn Mawr's momentum, as the Owls once again took charge of proceedings in the third quarter. Martin drilled another deep three to make it a five-point lead for the Owls yet again. After a Swarthmore layup, it was Laya Paladugu's turn to nail a three of her own, giving Bryn Mawr a six-point advantage, which became seven after another sequence of a Swarthmore two followed by a deep three by Martin. Swarthmore kept trying to chip away at their deficit, but Bryn Mawr stood tall through the middle of the quarter. Elizabeth-Robertson made a huge play inside, knocking down a layup through contact and sinking the ensuing free throw to give the Owls a 41-33 lead, their largest of the game. The Garnet finally hit back-to-back baskets to cut the lead in half, but free throws from Paladugu and Martin immediately ballooned it back up to seven. A late charge from the Garnet helped draw the hosts back within four, but Bryn Mawr still seemed to be the team in command headed into the final quarter.

A layup from Laya Paladugu started the fourth frame out in the right way for the Owls, but things quickly went downhill from there. Swarthmore promptly went on a six-point run fueled by some wide open mid-range jumpers and several bad possessions by the Owls offense to tie the game up just 72 seconds into the fourth quarter. Bryn Mawr jumped back out in front thanks to Paladugu's third three of the night, and it seemed as though the Owls had weathered the early Swarthmore storm. Unfortunately, that was not the case; the Garnet used an eight-point run over the next five minutes to leap back out in front by a 55-52 advantage.

Bryn Mawr did a great job of not folding after giving up their advantage late in the game. Lipi Paladugu finally put a stop to the Swarthmore run with a nice move in the paint for a jumper, and then a jumper from Martin brought the Owls back within one with 2:44 left to play. However, two huge jumpers from Swarthmore's Christina Holmgren bumped the hosts' advantage back up to five. Laya Paladugu hit another layup to bring Bryn Mawr back within three with less than 90 seconds to go, but that would prove to be Bryn Mawr's final basket of the night. The Owls only got one more shot off the rest of the game, and a costly turnover with a chance to tie ultimately proved to be their undoing, as Swarthmore ultimately escaped with a 61-56 victory.

Owls fans will get one more chance to see the team in action at home this Saturday, as the team celebrates Senior Day with a contest against Gettysburg. Come support the team and help send out senior Kara Breeden on a high note as Bryn Mawr takes on the Bullets at 2:00 PM in the Schwartz Center.