LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates men's basketball team played one of its best games of the season on Senior Night, running away from a close game after one half to defeat Saint Joseph's College of Maine, 76-49, in a non-conference game at Alumni Gym.
The win ends a three-game skid and evens Bates' overall record at 12-12 as the Bobcats move on to the postseason. The Bobcats, tied for second with St. Joe's in last week's Top 5 state poll, are the fifth seed in the eight-team NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship and will play at fourth-seeded Tufts on Saturday at 4pm (Live Stats / Video). The visiting Monks saw their three-game winning streak end as their record dropped to 17-7.
Senior John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) led Bates with 15 points and seven rebounds, while senior Reid Christian (Pownal, Maine) and sophomore Luke Matarazzo (Shelton, Conn.) added 11 points apiece. Senior Kyle Philbrook (Auburn, Maine) tied his career high with seven assists, and junior Ed Bogdanovich (Portland, Maine) chipped in eight points and six rebounds, as Bates outrebounded St. Joe's by a 40-23 margin.
Zach O'Brien led St. Joe's with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Matt Medeiros added 14 points and six rebounds. O'Brien and Medeiros accounted for 69 percent of the Monks' scoring output.
St. Joe's got out to an early lead of 12-6, thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers by Medeiros. After a layup by Monks sophomore James Philbrook (Kyle Philbrook's younger brother), made it 14-9 in favor of St. Joe's, the Bobcats responded with 12 unanswered points. Squires made back-to-back jumpers to get the run started, followed by a pair of floaters by junior Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.), who finished the game with five assists. The Monks cut it to three, but Matarazzo responded with a three, followed by an assist to sophomore Sean Cunningham (Amherst, Mass.) on a baseline jumper off an inbounds play. Kyle Philbrook then made a steal and fed Christian for a jumper for a 28-19 Bates lead with 4:05 left. Bates missed four shots in a row after that, however, and O'Brien created three buckets over the final four minutes, allowing the Monks to come within a point, at 28-27. A putback by Bates first-year Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) gave Bates a 30-27 halftime lead.
Bates' five seniors -- Christian, Will Furbush (South Portland, Maine), Kyle Philbrook, Squires and Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine) -- started the second half as well as the first. The quartet opened the second period with seven straight points: a jumper and a layup by Squires sandwiching a three by Christian, for a quick 10-point cushion. The Monks only came within seven points the rest of the way. After a layup by Medeiros made closed the gap to 43-35, Kyle Philbrook drove baseline and found Bogdanovich open underneath for a dunk and a 45-35 lead.
O'Brien answered with a three, assisted by Steve Simonds, to cut it to 45-38 with 13:11 left. St. Joe's then called timeout, but it was the Bobcats who looked rejuvenated when the teams returned to the floor.
Christian fed Squires for a jumper, then nailed a three from deep in the corner the next time down on a Squires kickout. Safford then came up with a steal and a lay-in for Bates' biggest lead to that point, 52-38, with 9:03 left. The momentum and energy remained on Bates' side, as Bogdanovich spurred a 12-2 run that extended the lead to 64-43. Bogdanovich collected four points, a steal, an assist and a rebound in the decisive three-minute span. Matarazzo capped off the decisive run with a steal underneath the St. Joe's basket, then spotted up for a 3-pointer in the corner from Philbrook.