On Monday evening, the boys’ basketball seniors took the Swanson floor for the last time and made it count with a gritty effort against a talented Kew-Forest squad in a decisive 72-52 win.
The Swanson faithful were barely in their seats before a high-energy, physical game began to unfold in front of them. Kew knocked down a 3-pointer and a jumper to open what proved to be their largest margin of the game. The Brook responded with an Owen Sobel layup and a T.J. Wachter putback to pull within 4-5, but the Jaguars responded with another 3-pointer to maintain their edge. After another tough layup from Wachter and a 3-point play from Sobel, the Bears took their first lead at 9-8. From there the lead changed hands four times over the remainder of the quarter as both sides clawed after the early momentum. Kew retook the lead on a floater, but Sobel grabbed it back with a layup, courtesy of a great pass from Wachter. Their third 3-pointer of the frame gave Kew the lead back at 13-11, but Wachter closed the quarter with a pair of layups to give the Brook a 17-15 advantage they would not give back.
In the second frame, fueled by a defensive lather and relentlessness on the boards, the Bears built as much as a 13-point lead. Matt Fajfer opened the frame with a 3-pointer (thanks to a heady, one-handed touch pass from Sobel) to ignite a 12-2 run where each score infused a jolt of momentum. Sobel followed with a bucket plus the foul, CJ Edwards finished a circus, up-and-under layup, Brandon Gicquel hit a 3-pointer, and Colin Scanlon converted a layup off of a beautiful alley-oop pass from Wachter. When the dust cleared the Bears held a 29-17 lead and looked poised to land a knockout blow. The Jaguars refused to comply despite 3-pointers from Gicquel and Fajfer. After a Sobel free throw, the Bears maintained a 36-23 edge, but Kew closed the half with consecutive 3-pointers to pull within 29-36 at the break.
Having squandered the momentum in the waning moments of the first half, the Bears wasted little time in seizing it back with consecutive steals and scores from Sobel and Gicquel that raised the lead back to double-digits. Another Fajfer 3-pointer equaled the Bears’ largest margin of the first half at 44-31 before an Edwards layup and a Sobel 3-pointer pushed the advantage to 49-33. Kew continued to burn through timeouts in an attempt to slow the surge, using their penultimate one with 1:19 remaining in the third; but out of the break Scanlon made a tough layup while drawing the foul and Sobel converted a cost-to-coast layup off of a missed free throw to give the Bears their biggest lead of the game at 53-36. Kew closed the frame with a 3-point play to pull within 14 entering the final period.
In the fourth, though the Jaguars never stopped fighting until the end, the collective weight of the Bears’ hustle, energetic defense, and penchant for momentum plays wore the visitors down. Scanlon opened the period with a 3-pointer before the Bear offense hit its first cold spell of the game. But while shots clanged off for a brief stretch, the Bears’ effort never waned as they forced a back court violation, scratched out four offensive rebounds on a single possession, and panted after a loose ball, securing a jump ball and skinned knees in the process. When the scoring hiatus lifted, thanks to Scanlon’s second 3-pointer, the Bears were ready to ring the death knell. Consecutive steals from Sobel led to a pair of Fajfer fastbreak layups that pushed the lead to 21. Another Fajfer 3-pointer gave the Bears their largest lead of the game at 68-46 and the teams traded buckets over the final moments en route to the 72-52 win.
Sobel led a balanced scoring attack with 20 points. Fajfer (17), Wachter (12), Scanlon (10), Gicquel (8), and Edwards (5) rounded out the attack.
The Bears now await their opponent in their 20th consecutive postseason appearance. Depending on the result from Thursday’s Knox/Our Savior match-up, the Bears will either secure the East #2 seed and face West #3 Avenues at home or earn the East #3 seed and travel to West #2 Martin Luther when the PSAA playoffs open on Monday.