For the last game of the regular season, the men’s basketball team faced off against the Haverford Fords at home on Saturday, Feb. 22. Entering the game 21-3, Hopkins was looking to grab another win before heading into the postseason.
The last time these two teams played was on Jan. 25 when sophomore guard Ethan Bartlett hit the game-winning shot in the last few seconds.
Senior forward Harry O’Neil explained how it felt to play in his last regular season game.
“It felt surreal,” he said. “The four years have flown by for me and it’s hard to fathom that that was the last time that I’ll ever play a regular season game in Goldfarb.”
Senior guard Mac Rowan also reflected on that moment.
“Because of my injury I was never able to play in a regular season game after my freshman year,” he said. “I felt some sadness that this would be my last memory on the floor in Goldfarb, but I was also grateful that I could spend that moment with a group of guys that I work with every day and who I love like family.”
The game started out tightly contested. After three minutes, Hopkins lead 10-9. But less than a minute later, Coach Loeffler brought in his bench unit, and the team began to pull away.
Bartlett started the run with a layup and a free throw. A layup from sophomore forward Chid Nnake, a three-pointer from junior guard Conner Delaney and a three-pointer from sophomore guard Braeden Johnson kept up the scoring.
When Haverford called a timeout with 14 minutes in the half, the score was 21-9. After the timeout, the Fords made a three-pointer off of an offensive rebound. Neither team could get a bucket for the next two and a half minutes until O’Neil nailed a three-pointer of his own to end the drought.
O’Neil talked about the team’s game plan.
“Haverford’s a really good team and they played us really tough at their place earlier in the season,” he said. “We felt confident offensively going in that we would get great shots, so we locked in defensively and our goal was to keep them under 60 points.”
The Blue Jays were on their way to achieving that goal. The teams traded baskets until Haverford brought the Jays’ lead to eight points with eight and a half minutes until halftime. Nnake scored a layup to once again to stretch the lead to double digits, and a string of consecutive three-point shots resulted in a score of 37-24 with four minutes in the half.
Haverford spent the next two minutes scoring unopposed until Hopkins only led by eight again. Hopkins took a timeout in hopes of dashing the Fords’ momentum. This worked, as Haverford didn’t score for the rest of the half. Unfortunately, Hopkins seemed to lose its momentum as well. Neither team scored until Delaney hit a free throw with 44 seconds left on the clock.
The half ended when Johnson sank a buzzer-beating three with two seconds to play. That shot brought the score to 41-29, a 12-point Hopkins lead.
Eight seemed to be the magic number for Haverford this weekend, because they began the second half by once again bringing the Hopkins lead down to eight points. And once again, Nnake scored a layup to turn the tides.
Nnake and Delaney both followed with baskets from inside the paint, a change from the team’s usual offense which emphasizes the three-pointer. Whether this was an omen or an indication of a strategy change, it stuck for most of the second half. Hopkins didn’t hit a three-pointer until the last five minutes of the game.
However, it was clear that this shift was not indicative of a struggling Blue Jay offense. In fact, the lead never fell below 10 points for the rest of the game. The flurry of layups came primarily from O’Neil but also featured Bartlett and Nnake.
When sophomore forward Tom Quarry hit the team’s first three of the half with 4:49 left, Hopkins was already up by 11 points. Delaney followed with another three. Solid free throws from O’Neil, freshman guard Carson James, Rowan, and sophomore guard Alex Schachne finished out the game. Hopkins won 75-56.
Rowan looked forward to the postseason.
“We’re excited to be in the position we’re in but recognize there’s much more basketball to play. All year we’ve had the goal of going 1-0 each game, and it’s the same mindset we have going into the tournament,” he said.
Hopkins finished in second place in the Conference with a record of 22-3. In first place is Swarthmore who did not lose a single game this season. This was the Jays’ sixth straight victory against Haverford. This is a good sign as Hopkins will play the Fords again in the first round of the Centennial Conference Tournament on Friday, Feb. 4 at Swarthmore.
The two seniors reflected on their favorite memories with the team.
“My best memory so far has been winning the conference my sophomore year,” O’Neil said. “It was amazing to be able to send Kyle [Doran] and Jesse [Flannery] out with a ring and that was just such a special group of guys. Hopefully I’ve still got a couple more memories to make this year though that could supplant that one.”
Rowan felt similarly.
“By far and away my best memories have been spending time with my amazing teammates,” he said. “Even after learning I wouldn’t be able to join them on the court, they made me feel like family day in and day out. I can’t explain how much they mean to me.”