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Men's basketball powers past Bowdoin in NESCAC quarterfinal

Alex Gallant '11 powers past the Bowdoin frontcourt for a layup during the second half of Bates' 80-64 win Saturday.
Jimmy O'Keefe '10 played a vital role, hitting 6 of 8 shots for 12 points.

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College men's basketball team built a 19-point lead at halftime and held off rival Bowdoin College in the second half for an 80-64 victory in the opening round of the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship on Saturday.

Bates (14-11), the fourth seed in the tournament, advances to the conference semifinals next Saturday, and currently waits to learn its next opponent.

Bowdoin, the fifth seed, ends its season with a 13-12 record.

Bates first-year point guard Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.) led three Bobcats in double figures with 14 points, to go with a team-high five assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes. Junior Alex Gallant (Bangor, Maine) and senior Jimmy O'Keefe (Lexington, Mass.) added 12 points apiece and grabbed six and five rebounds, respectively, off the bench for Bates. Sophomore center Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine) was perhaps the biggest factor in Bates' win, grabbing a game- and career-high 15 rebounds to go with nine points while playing sturdy interior defense against Bowdoin senior center Mark Phillips (Ashland, Mass.). Bates outrebounded Bowdoin 44-34 and used a 36-19 advantage in bench points.

Phillips scored a game-high 18 points for Bowdoin on 8-11 shooting, to go with seven rebounds. His jumper in the final minute of the game gave him a final total of 1,001 points in his career; he becomes the 20th player in team history to reach that milestone.

Bowdoin sophomore Will Hanley (New Canaan, Conn.) added 16 points on 7-9 shooting to go with a game-high six assists. Sophomore Ryan O'Connell (Ipswich, Mass.) added 13 points.

The Polar Bears entered the game 2-0 against the Bobcats with a pair of four-point wins this season, but they lost to the Bobcats in the NESCAC quarterfinals for the third time in the past seven years, against one win. All four of the teams' NESCAC Championship matchups in the past seven years have occurred as the fourth seed against the fifth seed.

Mark Brust '13 drives past Bowdoin senior Mike Hauser during the first half.

Bates dominated the first half, outrebounding Bowdoin 26-16 and playing swarming defense to outshoot the Polar Bears from the field, .441 to .280. Gallant netted a game-high eight points in the period, while Weston grabbed nine rebounds to go with four points.

Ignited by a pair of three-pointers by senior Marshall Hatch (Chicago, Ill.) and junior Nick Schmiemann (Weymouth, Mass.) in the opening minute, the Bobcats jumped out to an early 16-5 lead over the first 8:35. Bowdoin cut it to eight on a three-pointer by O'Connell, but Bates ran off six straight points on a pair of free throws by sophomore John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) and two straight buckets by O'Keefe for a 22-8 lead with 9:06 to go in the period.

Bowdoin again cut it down to 10, but Bates scored eight unanswered points -- four by Gallant and two apiece by Brust and Weston -- to push the lead to 32-14 with 3:39 to go. An offensive rebound and putback with 12 seconds left in the period sent Bates into halftime with a 36-17 lead. The Bobcats outscored the Polar Bears 10-2 in second-chance points and 11-4 in points off turnovers in the period.

Bates was solid coming out of halftime, as Brust sandwiched a three by Hatch with a pair of jumpers for a 45-25 lead with 16:35 to go. Bowdoin went on a 7-1 run, kick-started by a three-pointer by senior Mike Hauser (East Williston, N.Y.), to narrow the gap to 46-32 with 13:52 left. O'Keefe helped right the ship for Bates with two straight hoops to push the lead back to 18. A jumper by O'Connell cut it to 50-34 with 12:34 to go, but a technical foul called on Bowdoin at the 12:00 mark gave Brust two free throws, which he hit to start a decisive 11-2 run, including a three-point play by Schmiemann and a pair of hoops by Gallant. Gallant fed O'Keefe for a layup with 9:50 to go, giving the Bobcats a game-high 25-point lead at 61-36.

Bowdoin's full-court pressure, employed for most of the second half, began to take its toll on Bates ballhandlers, allowing Bowdoin to chip away at the lead. A putback by Hanley, a three by O'Connell and a three-point play by Hanley cut it to 64-46 with 6:45 to go. An offensive rebound and putback by Phillips was followed by another putback by Hanley, and Hanley stole the ball on Bates' next possession and fed senior Paul Sellew (Glastonbury, Conn.) for a layup to cut the deficit to 14 at 66-52 with 4:39 to play.

Weston responded by grabbing his seventh offensive board of the game and converting the putback, and a layup by Schmiemann followed by a pair of foul shots by Bates sophomore Kyle Philbrook (Auburn, Maine) padded the lead back to a comfortable 18 (72-54) with 2:54 left in the game. Bates hit its last four foul shots to help preserve the win.

STATS: Bates 80, Bowdoin 64