The men’s basketball team was riding a five-game winning streak as they entered two more Conference games this past weekend. They nipped at the heels of the top two teams in the Centennial Conference, winning in games against the Gettysburg College Bullets and the Dickinson College Red Devils.
The first game for the Jays was on the road against Gettysburg. Offensively, the Jays dominated from the start, hitting three three-pointers before the Bullets scored a single point. Hopkins took a 9-0 lead three and a half minutes into the game. They kept the lead at around 10 points for the next eight minutes of the game.
Eventually, however, Gettysburg went on a run, chipping away at the Blue Jays’ lead to take their first lead of the game, thanks to a layup by senior Matt England with only three seconds left in the first half.
England was the leading scorer for the Bullets, with eight of their 31 first-half points. For the Blue Jays, junior guard Michael Gardner led the team with 12 of the Jays’ 29 points. The 12 points came on four-for-nine shooting from three, and the overall Hopkins team shot seven for 17 from beyond the arc.
The Jays started the second half similarly to how they started the first, scoring the first seven points to retake the lead. Later in the half, they went on another run, taking the score from 38-35 and scoring 12 straight points to push the lead out to 50-35. Spurring the run was a layup by sophomore forward Harry O’Neil who scored another layup to cap off the Blue Jays’ run.
From that point on, Hopkins would not give up the lead, and the Bullets never got closer than six points from the Jays. Hopkins secured a 73-63 victory over the Bullets.
For the Bullets, senior Cameron Stewart ended the game with 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half.
On the side of the Blue Jays, Gardner contributed 21 of his own, O’Neil scored 11, senior forward Kyle Doran had 13 points and freshman guard Conner Delaney chipped in with 12 in the Blue Jays’ balanced scoring attack.
Hopkins really stepped up on defense in the second half, holding Gettysburg to just two for nine from three in the second half. So far, the defense has been the theme of their winning streak.
“Our defense has carried us. Constant communication and sticking to our principles have been the keys to making us a great defensive team,” Gardner said.
The Jays’ second game of the week was against Dickinson, a team that is battling for a spot in the Conference playoffs. Hopkins would take advantage of their home court in a 62-52 win to push their winning streak to seven.
The game was close at the start, as the Red Devils held onto a lead for the first 10 minutes, though never by more than five points. The Blue Jays would take over from the 10-minute mark, turning an 18-14 Dickinson lead on its head with 15 straight points to take a commanding 29-18 lead.
Hopkins led 30-24 at halftime, again thanks to the outstanding defense. They held the Red Devils to six-for-22 shooting from the field and an even more impressive zero-for-eight shooting from three. Though Dickinson shot the ball poorly from the field, they managed to make 12 free throws for half of their first-half points on 13 attempts.
In the second half, the Blue Jays would not look back, leading from start to finish and never allowing the Red Devils to get any closer than four points.
After Dickinson scored on their first possession of the second half, the stingy Hopkins defense would not allow another score until there were 15 minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the game, at which point they had ballooned their lead to 42-26.
From that point on, they would keep control of the game and eventually win by 10. While the Jays did not shoot particularly well — 29.6 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three — Gardner and Doran scored 18 and 16 points, respectively, and they both shot two for five from three.
Gardner is now averaging 14.2 points per game, thanks to five straight double-digit scoring games.
“After having a cold stretch a few weeks ago, our coaches kept instilling confidence in me, telling me to let it fly whenever I see an opening,” Gardner said.
Hopkins gets another home game against the only team in the Conference ahead of them, the Swarthmore College Garnet.
Swarthmore is currently ranked 11th in the country but lost a game last week to Muhlenberg College, opening a door for the Blue Jays to control their own destiny.
If Hopkins can win, they will be in a great position with the postseason approaching. Currently, there are only two games left to play in the Centennial Conference.
“I’m definitely most excited about making a run for the Conference title and hopefully moving onto the NCAA tournament,” Doran said.
The Blue Jays look to continue their momentum all the way into the Conference Tournament and beyond, starting Saturday at home against Swarthmore.