BRYN MAWR, Pa. - Wednesday night brought a thrilling contest to the floor in the Class of 1958 Gymnasium, as Bryn Mawr nearly earned an historic win in a matchup against Swarthmore. The Owls led much of the way through the Centennial Conference contest, but a late defensive changeup from the Garnet helped turn the tables and give the visitors a 62-55 win. Halena Martin led the way for Bryn Mawr with 17 points, while Meagan Murray-Bruce and Sydney Collins added eight more each. Swarthmore was led by 21 points from Faith Nation, while Kim Kockenmeister scored all nine of her points in the key fourth quarter of the Garnet's comeback.
Swarthmore got off to a good start with a drive inside that earned the visitors two free throws right out of the gate, but Bryn Mawr answered back on their first offensive possession with a nice layup by Odinaka Oranekwu. After a few empty possessions, Swarthmore re-took the lead at 4-2, but Bryn Mawr went right back down the court and tied things back up on a great feed by Oranekwu for a nice post finish by Murray-Bruce. Then, the Owls got a stop on the other side of the floor, and Oranekwu knocked down two free throws on the other end to hand Bryn Mawr their first lead of the contest at 6-4. A couple more free throws from Lipi Paladugu extended that advantage, but the Garnet battled back over the next couple minutes to wrestle the lead back at 9-8. The two sides traded the lead back and forth over the next few possessions, but then Bryn Mawr put together a solid run to close out the first quarter in style. Layups from Martin and Collins sparked the rally, and then Ella Kotsen hit a running bank shot before Collins knocked down another layup to make it 20-13 in favor of the Owls. Swarthmore managed to hit a buzzer-beating layup right before the horn, but Bryn Mawr still maintained a five-point advantage heading into the first break.
In the second quarter, the Owls were able to increase their lead even further thanks to some very impressive defense. Bryn Mawr held Swarthmore to just six points in the frame, the fewest points the Owls have allowed to a conference opponent in a quarter all season. The Owls held Swarthmore to just 1-for-11 shooting in the frame and also caused four turnovers as well. Offensively, Oranekwu and Collins hit layups in the early part of the quarter. May Hanlon was able to fight through some tough defending to nail a foul-line jumper. The biggest basket of the frame was a deep three-pointer from Laya Paladugu on the wing that gave Bryn Mawr a 30-19 advantage with 2:18 to go in the quarter. Swarthmore would make two free throws the rest of the period, but Bryn Mawr still took a 30-21 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Owls came out on fire in the third quarter as well, at first extending their lead to 13 thanks to baskets from Murray-Bruce and Oranekwu right out of the halftime break. After the Garnet momentarily stopped the bleeding with a layup from Nation, Bryn Mawr just stepped on the gas, scoring six straight points to leap out to a stunning 41-23 advantage with 5:40 to go in the quarter. A three-ball from Halena Martin was the dagger in that spurt, and it forced Swarthmore into a timeout as they tried to find a way to get back into the game.
That timeout would prove pivotal, as out of the break, Swarthmore turned on a full court press that flipped the game. The Garnet immediately got a basket out of the break, then forced a turnover as the Owls tried to inbound. In fact, four of Bryn Mawr's next five possessions ended in turnovers, allowing the Garnet to trim the deficit down to single digits. Martin hit a big jumper on a kickout from Oranekwu to give Bryn Mawr a 43-33 lead, but once again the Garnet got a basket right at the end of the quarter to give the visitors some momentum headed into the final frame.
Bryn Mawr continued to face a stiff press from Swarthmore throughout the fourth quarter, but they were able to fight through it in the early part of the final frame. Martin went on a drive down the right side that drew two defenders, allowing her to find Murray-Bruce wide open under the basket for an easy layup. Later, after the Garnet had gotten within three, Martin drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc to spark a huge celebration from the crowd. However, the press continued to wear on the Owls, and the hosts went scoreless over the next three minutes. Kockenmeister answered Martin's triple with a three of her own, then got a steal on the next inbounds play. That led to an easy jumper from Elizabeth Stiles and Swarthmore was within one. A few minutes later, Nation completed the comeback for the Garnet with four straight free throws.
The Owls weren't done yet, though. Murray-Bruce made another nice post move for a layup to bring Bryn Mawr back within one. After a single free throw from the visitors, Sydney Collins took a nice entry feed from Martin and knocked down a layup to tie the game back up with just over three minutes to play. Over the next minute, Bryn Mawr got two huge stops on defense, giving the Owls the ball with a chance to re-take the lead. However, both possessions went empty for the hosts, and a foul gave Swarthmore two free throws and the lead with 2:11 to play. Another turnover from the Owls allowed the visitors to take a four-point lead, but Martin hit a jumper with 1:44 to play to make it a one possession game once again. Swarthmore once more hit a single free throw, and Bryn Mawr had a chance to get within one or tie the game with a minute left. However, a jumper went awry, and Swarthmore grabbed the rebound. Over the final minute, Bryn Mawr fouled in an effort to stop the clock and get the ball back, but Swarthmore hit five of six free throws to close the game. Martin would hit one free throw of her own before time expired, but ultimately Swarthmore held on for the win in one of the more thrilling games of the season in the Centennial Conference.
Bryn Mawr put on their best shooting performances in a conference game since last January in tonight's contest, shooting 42.9% from the floor. The Owls also scored their most points in a conference game this season with tonight's performance. However, it was the turnovers and second chance points that allowed the Garnet to come back. Swarthmore outscored the Owls 38-6 in those two categories. From the time of the Garnet's crucial third-quarter timeout and defensive shift, Swarthmore outscored Bryn Mawr 39-14.
The Owls will look to keep the positive momentum from tonight's contest going as they flip the calendar to February and get back in action on the road this weekend. The Owls will travel to Ursinus on Saturday, with gametime in Collegeville set for 1:00 PM.