Hopkins men’s basketball clinched two more Conference victories this week against the Franklin and Marshall College Diplomats on Wednesday of last week and the Haverford College Fords on Saturday.
The first half against the Diplomats was a heated back-and-forth battle. Senior forward Daniel Vila got the Jays started, nabbing five points in the first five minutes of the game. Senior guard Michael Gardner joined the effort with a layup and a three-pointer, followed by a good free throw and a layup by freshman forward Tom Quarry. Between Hopkins shots, F&M made a few of their own. Freshman Solomon Mathis, sophomore Justin Kupa and sophomore Matt Redhead led their scoring effort. Unwilling to give up, however, Hopkins climbed back up until they led at end of the half 29-25.
The Jays soared ahead in the second half. Though the first four minutes was a gritty struggle for the lead, the Jays came out of the scuffle on top and refused to give the lead. The Jays extended their lead to as many as 15 in the game. With a good free throw from Gardner, Hopkins closed the match 69-55.
Gardner had a standout performance, putting up 30 points for the Jays for the second time this season and the third time in his Hopkins career. This performance, earned him Centennial Conference Player of the Week honors.
Senior forward Daniel Vila described how he felt lucky that his team is so motivated.
“I’m most grateful that we have a group of guys who all want to win. We talk a lot about how we can all contribute to winning, whether that’s playing a lot of minutes, coming off the bench and getting a few minutes here and there, or even just working as hard as we can in practice to make everyone better,” Vila said. “Whatever role we have, we all do it as hard and as best we can.”
With the spirited winds of competition blowing beneath their wings, the Jays glided back to Homewood for their last match before the Conference Tournament. The match was also the final regular season game. Seniors Noah Ralby, Gardner, Joey Fitzpatrick, Kabir Suri and Vila were recognized.
Senior acknowledgments continued into the match, as all five started. Vila, Gardner and Suri all hit at least one three within the first four minutes. The Fords hit a few of their own with shots from seniors Kyle Goldfarb and Kahlil Garnes, bringing the score to 14-12. The game was tight and continued to be so until freshman guard Ethan Bartlett sailed in with a dunk, bringing the Jays up 22-20. Using this momentum, the Jays pulled ahead to create their biggest lead of the game. Through two three-pointers, a free throw and a layup all from freshman forward Braeden Johnson, and one three from junior forward Harry O’Neil, the Jays stood ahead of the Fords 34-24. By the end of the half, however, Haverford had crept back in, 35-39.
The second half was much tighter. Though Hopkins led the entire game, the Fords didn’t roll over. Never dropping behind more than seven points, the Fords forced the Jays into a tight spot in the last two minutes. Two solid free throws put Haverford within three points of Hopkins, 62-65. O’Neil tried to get the Jays further ahead with a three, but Goldfarb answered with a layup.
Sophomore guard Joey Kern made both his free throws, however, and kept the lead at six points for the Jays. Goldfarb had a chance to answer that but missed one of his. With just five seconds left in the game, it seemed like the Fords might have still had a chance when Garnes made a layup shortening the gap even further to just 67-70. A good free throw from Gardner ended those hopes along with the game, 71-67.
Overcoming the Fords was a satisfying end to the final match the team’s seniors would play in Goldfarb.
Vila commented that the program has helped him grow.
“I feel like I’m much more of a mature player now than when I came out of high school. It’s really cool to be watching the NBA and see action that we run in our offense,” Vila said. “Obviously we’re not an NBA team, but we run pretty fast paced stuff that is all predicated on us making reads and reacting to the way the defense plays us.”
The Jays will play their first match of the Conference Tournament against the Ursinus College Bears at 6 p.m. on Friday in Swarthmore, Pa.