LANGHORNE, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr basketball team got their 2018-19 campaign underway earlier Saturday afternoon with a road trip to Cairn to take on the Highlanders. Last year's leading scorer Halena Martin returned to the court to kick off her junior season, and she picked up right where she left off with a huge 23-point performance to lead all scorers. In fact, the Owls got a strong effort across the board in this one, with Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson and Laya Paladugu also tallying double-digits in the game. Bryn Mawr kept things close deep into the fourth quarter in this one, but ultimately Cairn was able to pull away late to claim a 76-63 win. Kendra Stum led the Highlanders with 17 points in the contest.
Bryn Mawr got the game, and their season, off to a perfect start as Odinaka Oranekwu drained the first shot attempt of the year to put the Owls up 2-0 early on. Paladugu used a great feed from Brendan Harrison to drill her first three-point attempt of the season a couple of possessions later, and then Elizabeth-Robertson got on the board after a strong offensive rebound on Bryn Mawr's next trip down the floor. Cairn inched ahead 13-7 over the next couple minutes, but in a preview for the rest of the contest, the Owls continued to battle back and keep things close. Oranekwu, Paladugu, and Martin each knocked down shots to get Bryn Mawr back within one at 13-14. Harrison got on the board next for the Owls by hitting a nice jump shot, and then she made another great feed to get Lipi Paladugu her first bucket of the year. The teams had continued to trade baskets the whole way through the rest of the first quarter, and one final jumper from Martin off an assist from Oranekwu closed out the scoring in the frame with Cairn holding a slim 20-19 advantage.
Halena Martin really heated up for the Owls in the opening minutes of the second quarter, as the junior scored the first four baskets of the frame for Bryn Mawr. She knocked down back-to-back jumpers, and then put in a layup on an assist from Lipi Paladugu that put Bryn Mawr ahead 25-24. After the hosts went back out front on the next possession, the Owls came the other way and Oranekwu pulled down two strong offensive rebounds. Ultimately, she worked the ball into the hands of Martin, who canned a three-pointer to give Bryn Mawr a 28-26 lead. Elizabeth-Robertson followed that up with a three-pointer of her own, and then a jumper from Lipi Paladugu gave the Owls a five-point advantage. A brief cold streak gave Cairn time to get back ahead 35-33, but Martin drilled another jumper to tie the game right back up. Each side hit a single free throw over the final three minutes of the quarter, and that sent the teams to halftime deadlocked at 36 points apiece.
Cairn got off to a quick start to open the second half, scoring the first seven points of the third quarter, but that did not faze the Owls. Martin knocked down two quick jumpers, and then Laya Paladugu nailed another three-ball to reel the Highlanders all the way back in midway through the frame. However, Cairn immediately built their advantage even higher, using an 11-0 run to take a 56-45 lead with 1:36 left to play in the quarter. Bryn Mawr would not back down though. On the ensuing Owls possession, Elizabeth-Robertson pulled down a gritty offensive rebound and converted the layup, and then she made another the next time down the floor. Cairn hit the final shot of the quarter just a few seconds later, but Bryn Mawr had at least ended Cairn's run and set themselves up for one last push in the fourth quarter.
The Highlanders stretched their advantage to 13 points by knocking down a jumper in the opening minute of the final frame, but then Bryn Mawr started their comeback effort. Laya Paladugu got things started with a layup, and after another Cairn basket, she knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 53-64. Oranekwu made a great slashing drive into the paint for a layup a couple of seconds later to draw the Owls back within single digits. After another huge stop on the defensive end, Elizabeth-Robertson ripped down another offensive board and made the putback, and suddenly the Owls were within seven with more than five minutes to play in the game.
Unfortunately, that would be as close as Bryn Mawr could get in this one. Cairn ended the Owls' rally with a dagger of a three-pointer, and then went on to make a pair of free throws later. Martin and Elizabeth-Robertson hit a couple baskets to keep it a ten-point game, but a five-point run from the Highlanders put things virtually out of reach. A late jumper from Martin would be the final scoring of the afternoon, as Bryn Mawr came up just a little bit short in a tough 76-63 loss.
The Owls will definitely draw on the positives from today's contest as they look to prep for their next action. The team will get the next few days to practice and prep before a Virginia road trip next weekend. Bryn Mawr will travel to the Commonwealth to take on Southern Virginia on Friday evening and Mary Baldwin on Saturday afternoon.