Lady Bullets score first-ever Centennial Crown
After decades of coming so close to winning a conference title, the Gettysburg College women’s basketball team finally laid claim to its first as the Bullets knocked off Swarthmore College 48-46 in the Centennial Conference Championship game inside Bream Gym on Saturday.
Gettysburg (21-6) also received the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Tournament. It will be the fifth time in program history the Bullets have made the national playoff field and first since 2009-10. The NCAA will release the brackets on Monday with the opening rounds taking place March 1-2.
The rubber-match between Gettysburg and Swarthmore (20-7) proved equally exciting as the first two with the outcome coming right down to the wire. Trailing by just three at the break, the Bullets remained within striking distance until making their move with just over 12 minutes remaining. The hosts tallied six-straight points to tie the contest at 30, but a three-pointer by Eliza Polli handed the advantage back to the Garnet with 12:10 to play.
Gettysburg came storming back with a 9-0 burst to take the lead for good. Following a lay-up by junior Caroline Murphy just inside the 10-minute mark, junior Rianna Doane knocked down a three-pointer on the next possession to put the lead at 39-33 with 9:07 left.
Gettysburg’s lead would grow to seven thanks in large part to Murphy, who scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the second period. Murphy knocked down a jumper in the paint to put the Bullets up 45-38 at 5:56.
The Garnet refused to give in, receiving a three-pointer by Katie Lytle and a jumper by Jessica Jowdy to cut the margin to 45-43 with 3:21 to play. After junior Cori Younghans hit one-of-two free throws, the Bullets picked up what would turn out to be the decisive bucket as Murphy found freshman Jessica Porterr on a cut to the goal to make the lead five (48-43) with 2:21 to play.
Swarthmore answered as Kayla Moritzky connected on a three-pointer from the corner on the next possession to pull to 48-46. The Garnet forced a turnover, but handed the ball right back to the hosts as Mortizky had the ball poked away and Murphy came up with it. Gettysburg was unable to convert on its ensuing possession, with Swarthmore taking over on its side of the court with 23 seconds left.
Each of the previous two meetings were decided in the final seconds and Saturday’s contest would follow along the same lines. In this instance, however, it would not be a made bucket that sealed the decision as Moritzky missed an off-balanced shot from the elbow and sophomore Jenna Swope skied for the defensive board with four seconds left. The Garnet fouled Swope with only one second on the clock.
After missing the first attempt, Swope intentionally missed the second and Moritzky’s full-court heave as time expired was well short of the mark.
Gettysburg jumped in front in the opening minutes of the game behind a large and raucous crowd. A three-pointer by junior Alyssa Isler gave the hosts a 10-6 lead at 14:49 of the first stanza.
Swarthmore would gain the lead with five points by Moritzky and a pair of buckets by Lytle later in the half would put the Garnet in front 19-14 with 3:23 before the break. Porter helped trim the deficit to just three (21-18) with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in the opening half.
Murphy finished 7-of-17 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line to lead the Bullets. Porter tallied 11 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots, while Lytle led Swarthmore with 15 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals. Moritzky added 11 points and five rebounds, while Elle Larsen added 10 points and six boards.
Gettysburg held Swarthmore to just 25.4 percent (16-of-63) shooting from the floor, including just 6-of-25 (24 percent) from beyond the arc. The Bullets out-rebounded the visitors 49-44.
Saturday’s victory marked Gettysburg’s first overall conference title of any kind. The Bullets won the Middle Atlantic Conference Southern Division title in 1985, but finished runner-up for the MAC overall title. Gettysburg finished runner-up for the Centennial Conference title in 2008.