In what has become one of the most intense rivalries in the Centennial Conference, last Thursday night, the Hopkins men’s basketball team took on the Swarthmore College Garnet in Goldfarb Gymnasium. The last time the two teams met, it was in the Conference Championship, where the Blue Jays took down the Garnet at Swarthmore to claim the Conference Championship. The last time the two teams met in Goldfarb, the game went to double overtime and was eventually decided by a three-pointer by now senior guard Michael Gardner with eight seconds left to win the game 93-91.
With the great matchups last year, this year’s rematch was highly anticipated, especially because the Garnet was ranked No. 8 in the country coming into the game.
The game started out well for the Blue Jays, especially junior forward Harry O’Neil, who scored the team’s first eight points to put them up 8-4. The Garnet would work back to tie it up at 12 with just over 12 minutes to go in the first half, and from there they would go on a 12-0 run to double up the Blue Jays at 24-12.
Hopkins would not go away quietly, however, as they responded with their own run, this time at 14-2, to tie the game at 26 with three and a half minutes to go. The teams would battle back and forth for the rest of the half and the Blue Jays would go into halftime down five, 35-30.
Gardner spoke about how the team was able to bounce back after going down 12 points early.
“We started getting stops. We did a great job executing the defensive game plan,” he said.
That defensive emphasis showed up for both teams in the second half, as neither team could get in rhythm offensively. Over eight minutes into the second half, the teams had combined for 13 points in the half, with Swarthmore holding onto a two-point lead.
Hopkins was able to retake the lead with just under eight minutes left in the half thanks to a jumper by O’Neil, but the Garnet would grab it back on the next possession and push the lead back out to six with three straight scores. That seven-point run was responded to by sophomore guard Conner Delaney, who scored six straight points to tie the game at 51 with 4:25 to play.
The tie would not be broken for over two minutes, until Gardner hit a three to put the Blue Jays up. After a free throw by the Garnet, Hopkins would extend their lead to five with 53 seconds left on a three by Delaney.
With 41 seconds left, Swarthmore missed a three-point attempt, but they collected the offensive rebound and set up a play that got them a successful three that closed the gap to two points. On the ensuing Hopkins inbound, the Swarthmore pressure got to Gardner and forced a turnover right under the Garnet basket which led to an easy layup to tie the game with 23 seconds left.
The Blue Jays called a timeout and drew up a play that got the ball to Gardner with just over five seconds left in the game, with a chance to once again win the game for the Blue Jays over the Garnet. This time, however, Gardner drove into the lane and shot a fade-away jumper that did not hit rim, but a dashing O’Neil managed to corral the miss and put it in with just .6 seconds remaining. The Garnet’s heave at the buzzer clanked off the rim, and the Blue Jays extended their winning streak against Swarthmore to three games.
Gardner talked about the final play after the game.
“I knew I just had to get any type of shot off to give us a chance before the buzzer. I air balled — actually it was a pass — but what happened is something we practice a lot. We have a lot of really good offensive rebounders who have great instincts on the boards, and Harry [O’Neil] is among the best. He made a great play in a big moment,” he said.
The Blue Jays had to quickly collect themselves from the big win to go on the road to play the Washington College Shoremen on Saturday in Chestertown, Md.
The Hopkins offense was red hot from the very start of the game and never looked back. The Blue Jays put up 47 points in the first half on 18-25 shooting from the field (75 percent) including 9-13 from three (69.2 percent). They also held the Shoremen to just 33 points in the half.
In the second half, Hopkins was able to cruise. They led by as many as 21 points, and the Shoremen never got within 12 points in the second half. The Blue Jays offense cooled off a bit in the second half, only shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.
The Blue Jays next play at home against Dickinson College on Saturday at 3 p.m.