As the final buzzer sounded at Tarble Pavilion, Swarthmore students erupted with a “Let’s go Swarthmore” chant. The crowd that piled over from the stands onto the court, and would have made any fire marshal uneasy, was proud of its team, even though the season was over.
The Garnet could not fight their way out of a poor second half, falling to Springfield, 74-62, on Saturday night in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. They managed just 22 points on just 30.8 percent shooting in the second half after leading, 40-33, at halftime.
But that did not deter the fans from letting the players know they were appreciated. Despite the loss, 2017-18 was the best year in the Swarthmore program’s history. The seniors walked off their home court for the final time with heads held high, knowing they left the program in a better place than they found it.
“We’re leaving a culture that is incredibly strong, and is going to be that way for years to come,” senior guard Zack Yonda said.
“But right now, it’s hard to deal with,” he added.
In their final college game, Yonda and fellow senior Robbie Walsh were the motors for Swarthmore in the first half. They had 12 and eight points, respectively, and were the cornerstones of the game plan for the Garnet.
In the second half, they could not get on the scoreboard. Yonda shot only twice and Walsh once, thanks to great pressure defense by Springfield. The rest of the Garnet could not carry the scoring weight.
“Watching them on film defensively, we thought we had some advantages we could exploit,” coach Landry Kosmalski said. “I think they really stepped up their defense.”
It may not be the storybook ending the seniors were looking for, but they gave everyone something to be proud of. Swarthmore won eight games the year before the freshman class that included Yonda and Walsh stepped on campus. They ended this year with 25.
“These guys have been here the whole time,” Kosmalski said. “They learned from Karl [Barkley] and the other guys that have graduated since then what it means to be leaders. They got a pretty picture-perfect idea of what it means to lead.”
Ten young men will return to Tarble Pavilion to carry on what the senior class built in its four years.
“We had the best season in Swarthmore basketball history,” Kosmalski said. “And it’s not so much that we got the wins, it’s how we did it. Us being who we are and the way we do it and our culture, it inspires people to watch us. I think that is going to be the legacy from this season. Not that we finished three games short of what we wanted, but that we did things the right way.”