BABSON PARK, Mass. -- The Bates men's basketball team's thrilling and historic season came to an end in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Friday evening at Babson's Staake Gymnasium, with a 79-62 defeat to defensive-minded Trinity College.
The Bobcats finish 21-7, the most wins in program history, with a 2-1 record in their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Bantams (23-6) advance to the Elite Eight and will play the winner of Friday night's second game between Babson and Johns Hopkins.
Senior Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) had team highs of 20 points, four assists and four steals in his final game for the Bobcats. Fifteen of his points were scored in the final 11 minutes, after returning to the game from an apparent ankle injury. At the tail end of a Bates defensive stop with 13:10 to go, Safford was helped to his feet and off the floor, only to return less than two minutes later.
Sophomore center Malcolm Delpeche (Wilmington, Del.) made 10-of-12 foul shots en route to 16 points and added three blocks, but he and his teammates were largely kept off the boards: he shared the team lead with junior Mike Boornazian (Portland, Conn.) and senior Billy Selmon (Atlanta, Ga.) with only four. Sophomore forward Marcus Delpeche (Wilmington, Del.) attempted only three shots from the field (2-3) in adding 10 points with three rebounds and a block.
Bates was held to 29.1% field-goal shooting (16-55), including 10% (2-20) from three-point territory, their second-worst long-distance shooting of the season. The Bobcats attempted a season-high 42 free throws but made a modest 28 (66.7%).
Boornazian, who scored 40 points in Bates' first two tournament games, was harassed defensively throughout the game and held to seven points.
Trinity guard Jaquann Starks led the Bantams with easily the best offensive night of any player on the floor, scoring 20 points while making 4-of-5 shots from the three-point arc and all eight of his free throws. Shay Ajayi had 16 points and 14 rebounds, leading the Bantams to a 45-32 advantage on the boards.
Trinity's vaunted bench came through in a big way, outscoring Bates reserves 28-3. Chris Turnbull made 2-of-3 from three for eight points, and Ed Ogundeko pitched in eight points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes of action.
Bates led for much of the first 13 minutes, before Trinity closed the half with a 15-3 run to build an 11-point halftime lead. Four straight free throws by Starks put the Bantams in front 22-19 with 6:05 remaining in the stanza, and Turnbull buried a three-pointer from the left wing in transition to make it 25-19 with 4:17 to go before halftime.
A pair of layups by Ogundeko pushed the Trinity advantage to as many as 11 late in the period, and Turnbull canned a pull-up jumper with 11 seconds to go to put the Bantams up 33-22. The Bobcats shot just 5-of-25 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, and went the final 9:18 without a field goal.
Trinity scored on three of its first four possessions out of the break to open a 39-24 lead. Bates broke its 11 and a half minute field-goal drought with a layup by Boornazian, and then scored on four of its next five possessions to pull within 41-35 on a two-hand slam by Malcolm Delpeche. The Bantams answered with back-to-back three, though, followed by a jumper from Steve Spirou, to go push its lead back to 53-40 with 12:07 left.
The Bobcats responded with a 10-2 burst to get within 55-50 on a three-pointer by Safford with 8:19 to play. But Trinity ripped off 10 straight points, including a three-point play by Papadeas to make it 65-50 with 4:13 remaining. Safford drilled a triple to trim the Bates deficit to 71-62 with 58 seconds left, but the Bantams went 8-of-8 at the free throw line over the final 45 seconds to seal the win.
Safford fouled out with 13 seconds to go in the game and received hearty, appreciative applause from the sizable contingent of Bates fans. The First Team All-NESCAC guard finished his career with 1,252 points, moving ahead of Bryan Wholey '08 (1,246) into 10th place on Bates' all-time scoring list.