Soaring to New Heights
Update (2/27/16): Despite nearly erasing a 24-point halftime deficit, the men's basketball team was defeated by Franklin & Marshall 75-64 in the Centennial Conference championship game. Down 50-26 at the half, the Garnet cut the deficit to one point with 1:37 remaining to play, but the Diplomats hit 8-of-9 free throws to seal the game. The Garnet's postseason run hopes to continue this week with an appearance as an at-large bid in either the NCAA Tournament or ECAC Tournament (dates and opponents to be announced).
Update (2/26/16): Behind a double-double performance from Robbie Walsh '18, the men's basketball team defeated Dickinson College 77-73 and advanced to the 2016 Centennial Conference championship game. The Garnet will face No. 1 seed and host Franklin & Marshall College on Saturday at 7pm.
Following a record-setting regular season, the Swarthmore men’s basketball team has its sights set on postseason glory.
This weekend, the Garnet will travel to Lancaster, Pa., to compete in the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time since 1997. A No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs following a 19-6 regular season, the Garnet will face No. 3 seed Dickinson College on Friday at 6 p.m. from the campus of Franklin & Marshall. A Garnet victory would mean advancing to the Centennial Conference championship game on Saturday evening (7 p.m.), with the program’s first trip the NCAA Division III Tournament on the line.
It’s been a breakthrough season for the men’s basketball team, which has shown gradual improvement during the four-year tenure of head coach Landry Kosmalski. Buoyed by a 9-0 start to the season, the Garnet finished the regular season with 19 wins, setting a new program single-season record.
Much of the Garnet’s success can be credited to balance on the offensive and defensive ends. Four different student-athletes are averaging over 10 points per game: Chris Bourne ‘17, a forward and biology/Spanish major from Monmouth Junction, N.J.; Zach Yonda ‘18, a guard from Berwyn, Pa.; Matt Brennan ‘18, a point guard from Ridgefield, Conn.; and Robbie Walsh ‘18, a forward from Summit, N.J.. On the defensive end, the Garnet leads the conference in opponents’ field goal percentage (39.5) and ranks third in points allowed (62.8).
According to Sean Thaxter ‘16, an economics an political science major from Cobleskill, N.Y., this season has been the result of teamwork and trust.
“I don't think that our individual talent level has increased by that much over the past years, but the overall understanding and trust in our system has grown to the point where our team is a much more confident and cohesive unit," he says. "In years past, we would get under pressure in games and lose belief in ourselves, which would cause us to fragment, but now we just move on to the next play and keep grinding.”
The team’s elaborate system was recently described as a “little ballet” in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “You see a team obsessed with passing up decent shots for better shots: a fast-paced group, with frequent subs, a group that knows its jobs. The shooters shoot, the screeners screen, the low-post guys get to their spots. Swarthmore's guys are very precise in their actions off the ball."
For Kosmalski, a culture of toughness and accountability has been the key to this season’s success and is at the foundation of the program’s long-term goals. But for now, the team is only focused on what is immediately ahead, as Kosmalski noted in a recent interview with KYW Newsradio.
“I think we’re going to keep trying to do what we’ve done the whole season and really just take it day-by-day,” he says. “We talk a lot about just winning the next game. If you win a game, try to win the next game. If you lose a game, try to win the next game."
Fans who cannot travel to Lancaster can watch the games via livestream at: http://portal.stretchinternet.com/fandm/