Men’s basketball splits games, gets No. 5 seed
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team split two NESCAC games this past weekend as the Panthers’ regular season concluded with a satisfying victory over the league’s first-place team on Friday followed by a stunning, last-second upset on Saturday that cost Middlebury a first-round home playoff game.
The Panthers (20-4 overall, 6-4 in NESCAC) finished in a three-way tie for third place with Trinity (16-8, 6-4) and Williams (13-11, 6-4), but lost out on tiebreakers because Trinity swept both teams in the regular season, including the Bantams’ 82-76 home win on Jan. 31.
As a result Trinity earned the No. 4 seed and will host the Panthers at 3 p.m. this Saturday in a quarterfinal. The highest remaining seed in the tournament will host the final four. Tufts (18-6, 8-2, including a loss on Friday to the Panthers), Colby (21-2, 8-2) and Amherst (17-7, 7-3) are the top three seeds.
On Saturday Bates (12-12, 4-6) defeated the Panthers, 90-87, when Bobcat Nick Gilpin knocked down a three at the buzzer. Gilpin was on fire in the second half, hitting seven of 10 shots, including three of four three-point attempts, to score 19 of his 28 points and spark the upset.
Bates led at the break, 40-35, and the teams exchanged the lead throughout the second half as Gilpin and Jeff Spellman, who went six-for-11 in the half for 15 of his 24 points, bombed away for Bates, while Tommy Eastman poured in 21 of his career-high 28 points after the break, with Matt Folger adding 11 of his 19.
The Panthers twice took five-point leads, at 70-65 on a layup from Eastman at 8:00, and 81-76 at 4:28 after Folger blocked a shot and converted in transition. But the Bobcats responded with six-straight points to take an 82-81 lead at 3:20.
With the game tied at 87-87, Bates missed a shot with less than 10 seconds to go, and Middlebury raced up the floor. Panther guard Jack Farrell slipped at the Bates free-throw line and lost control of the ball, and Gilpin picked it up, ran to the other end and swished the contested game-winner from 23 feet out. The horn sounded as the ball arced to the basket.
Folger added 11 rebounds and four blocks. Max Bosco finished with 13 points, Farrell netted a dozen, and Griffin Kornaker scored eight with four assists.
Gilpin ended up hitting 10 of 14 shots, including six of eight from long range, and added nine rebounds. Omar Sarr finished with 17 points and 19 rebounds. The game featured 14 ties and 15 lead changes, and Middlebury lost despite shooting 54%.
On Friday the Panthers dealt Tufts its first league loss, 86-74. Tufts also fell to Williams on Saturday. Middlebury led by 44-38 at the half, scored the first five points of the second half, and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Bosco led all players with 26 points. Folger recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Eastman contributed 14 points and 11 boards. Perry DeLorenzo added 10 points off the bench, Kornaker dished out five assists, and Farrell had eight assists to go along with eight boards.
Brennan Morris led Tufts with 23 points, while Luke Rogers recorded 19 points and 13 rebounds.
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