By Zion Williams, Staff Writer
The men’s basketball team enjoyed success in the first round of the Centennial Conference Championship, cruising to a 71-51 victory over Franklin & Marshall on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Unfortunately, the team fell 95-81 in the semifinals to no.15 Swarthmore on Friday, Feb. 24, ending their season.
Tuesday night, students wearing white clothing packed the bleachers in Bream Gymnasium, creating both a resounding sea of support for the Bullets and an equally intimidating atmosphere for the Diplomats. The crowd roared in approval as forward Ryan McKeon ’24 won the tip-off to begin the game.
Josh Parra of the Diplomats scored 1:45 into the game with a strong spin move and finished in the post. Guard Jordan Stafford ’25 quickly responded on the ensuing Bullets possession, finishing a contested layup after a strong drive to the rim. However, the orange and blue struggled early, only managing to score twice on their opening seven possessions.
But the 6-2 lead that the Diplomats started with evaporated quickly. Stafford changed the momentum of the game by going on a personal 8-0 scoring run to give Gettysburg the lead, which they would not lose for the rest of the game.
With around ten minutes left in the first-half, the Bullets went on a 24-6 scoring run during which guard Carl Schaller ’25 tallied ten points. Gettysburg closed the half leading 40-20 as the crowd cheered for the Bullets and waved the Diplomats off the court.
The emphatic first-half performance propelled the Bullets to a win as both teams scored 31 points in the second half. With 9:36 left in the second half, captain Elijah Williams ’23 went down with an apparent knee injury and had to leave the game. The senior contributed ten points and six rebounds before his exit.
Stafford led the team with 17 points and nine rebounds. Schaller contributed 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Gettysburg men’s basketball advanced to play Swarthmore in the semifinals.
The Bullets arrived at Swarthmore knowing what it would take to ride home victoriously. They beat the Garnets at home 78-65 just a week earlier on Feb. 18. However, they were in enemy territory this time and met by a gym packed with support for the Garnets. Williams started the game despite being doubtful to play after suffering an injury the previous game.
The Bullets won the first possession as the tip-off landed in the hands of Stafford. Both teams failed to score during their first four possessions. With 17:27 left on the clock, forward Antonello Baggi ’24 broke the deadlock with a three-pointer from the corner. Capitalizing off an offensive rebound and foul, Vinny DeAngelo responded with a layup for the Garnets after a well-run inbound play.
The Garnets began to pull away after being tied 11-11 with 13:40 left in the first-half. Two free throws from Michael Caprise gave the Garnets a lead that they never lost and sparked a 13-2 run that distanced them further from the Bullets. The Bullets went into halftime down 49-34.
In the second half, the Garnets continued their run, and the Bullets could not match their shooting form. According to Gettysburg College Athletic Communications, the Bullets shot 36.4 percent from three and 46.4 percent from the field, while the Garnet shot 50.0% from beyond the arc and 60.7 percent from the field.
The Bullets were down by 27 points with five minutes left on the clock, the game’s largest margin. They would battle back late, bringing it as close as 13 points, but Swarthmore’s offensive firepower proved too much to overcome. In an otherwise forgettable night, Schaller registered a career-high of 33 points and 2 assists.
While the men’s season ended sooner than they would have hoped for, a 16-11 overall and 12-6 conference is an improvement over last season and their second-straight winning season. The program has turned around, and with its strong young core, they are destined for even more success in the coming years.