Bates clinches home playoff game with win at Colby

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WATERVILLE, Maine -- The Bates men's basketball team led by 15 points at halftime and went up by as much as 18 points in the second half before holding off a Colby rally for an 82-77 win in New England Small College Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday. The result helped the Bobcats establish program milestones for overall victories and NESCAC victories in a season.

Bates' win guarantees the Bobcats one of the top four seeds in the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship. The Bobcats will host an opponent to be determined next Saturday, Feb. 21, in the conference quarterfinals, in what will be Bates' first home postseason game since 2010. Bates will be either the third or fourth seed in the tournament, depending on whether Amherst wins at Middlebury on Sunday: a Middlebury win would mean the third seed for Bates, but an Amherst win would make Bates the four seed. 

Before the postseason begins, the Bobcats will finish out the regular season with a non-conference game at St. Joseph's on Tuesday at 7pm, a makeup date from November.

At 18-5 overall and 7-3 in conference play, the Bobcats have established a program record for NESCAC wins and have tied for the third-most overall wins in a season in team history. The 2004-05 and 2005-06 editions of the Bobcats both finished 6-3 in the NESCAC, prior to Hamilton becoming a full conference member in 2011-12, which created an annual 10-game conference slate. 

The Mules dropped to 13-11 and 4-6 in the league; they will be the eighth seed and play at top-seeded Trinity College next Saturday in a league quarterfinal game.

Bates senior Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) had a double-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and a team-high four assists for the Bobcats. Junior Mike Boornazian (Portland, Conn.) finished with 13 points, three assists, and two steals. Sophomore center Malcolm Delpeche(Wilmington, Del.) chipped in 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting and sophomore Max Eaton (St. Petersburg, Fla.) also shot 4-for-5 and had 10 points, tying a career-high.

Colby's Ryan Jann led all scorers with 19 points, to go with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Sam Willson finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, Connor O'Neil had 14 points and three assists in his final home game, and Luke Westman scored 12 on 5-for-6 shooting with six assists. John Gallego went 4-for-6 from the field and had 10 points.

Bates took control midway through the first half and led by as much as 16 points at 30-14. The Mules cut the margin to eight points, but the Bobcats pulled away in the final two minutes to go up 41-26 at the break.

The Mules got back-to-back 3-point shots from O'Neil and Gallego to get the lead down to nine at 48-39 with 14:28 to play. Then Colby got all the way back in the game after a strange sequence. Ryan Jann sank four straight free throws after being fouled, plus a Bates technical foul. Colby retained the ball and Gallego sank another 3-pointer to suddenly cut the lead to 48-46 with 12:53 to play.

Safford scored seven points in a 9-3 Bates run as the Bobcats got up again by eight points and forced the Mules to battle back. Colby got back to two points on three occasions, but could never get the game tied, with Malcolm Delpeche scoring six straight Bobcat points, on two jumpers and two free throws. 

With Bates up 73-70, senior Adam Philpott (Gloucester, Mass.) hit a big 3-point shot from the left corner and Malcolm Delpeche followed with an inside jumper for a 78-70 margin.