MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Bates men’s basketball team’s season ended with a valiant effort Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the NESCAC tournament, with the Bobcats erasing a 17-point deficit before falling 88-84 to the No. 10 nationally ranked Panthers.
Middlebury (22-3) advances to next Saturday’s conference semifinals against Williams, while Bates finishes the year with a 15-10 record.
Senior twin brothers Marcus Delpeche and Malcolm Delpeche (Wilmington, Del.) led Bates with 18 and 17 points, respectively, with 12 points apiece in the second half of the final game as a Bobcat for the team’s six seniors. First-year guards Tom Coyne (Falmouth, Maine), Nick Gilpin (Hampden, Maine) and Jeff Spellman (Boston, Mass.) all hit double figures as well with 15, 14 and 10 points, respectively — a season-high in scoring for Gilpin, who added six assists.
Middlebury senior Matt St. Amour poured in 34 points, making 11-of-21 shots from the field and 7-15 from three-point territory. St. Amour’s 21 points in the first half were the main reason Middlebury led 43-33 at the break; he then overcame a slow start to the second half to score 13 points in the final 7:20, helping the Panthers hold off a final Bates rally.
Jack Daly added 14 points and 11 assists for the Panthers and Eric McCord posted 13 points and 11 rebounds. Adisa Majors played a big role off the Middlebury bench with 10 points, three assists and three steals.
Middlebury jumped out to a 20-5 lead seven minutes into the game, with St. Amour drilling five jumpers, including three 3-pointers, for 13 quick points. Middlebury led by as many as 17 points with under five minutes to go in the first half, but a 13-5 spurt by the Bobcats reduced the lead to single digits for a moment, as Coyne’s second 3-pointer of the run made it 40-31 with 1:09 to go. Bryan Jones made his second three of the game for Middlebury to make it 43-31, but a putback dunk by Malcolm Delpeche with 18 seconds to go cut the difference to 10 points at intermission.
A three-point play by McCord early in the second half gave Middlebury a 52-38 advantage. But Gilpin and Coyne then sandwiched a layup by Majors with 3-pointers to cut the lead to 10 (54-44). With 12 minutes remaining, Malcolm Delpeche nailed a 17-foot jumper and Gilpin followed a St. Amour miss with a three, cutting the deficit to 58-52 with 11:27 to go.
Bates made four straight defensive stops before junior Justin Zukowski (Portland, Maine) cut it to 58-55 with a three. After another stop, Gilpin fed Malcolm Delpeche for a layup; the freshman point guard then stole the ball from St. Amour and fed Coyne for a layup and with 8:37 to go, Bates had suddenly overtaken the lead at 59-58.
Bates stayed close in spite of threes by St. Amour and Jones. A free throw by Zukowski tied the game at 66-66, but a lane violation on his second attempt turned the ball over the Middlebury. St. Amour then drained a three with 5:37 to go for a 69-66 lead.
Malcolm Delpeche made another 17-footer to cut the lead to three with 4:22 left. But after a Middlebury miss, Bates turned the ball over for the 18th and final time in the game and the Panthers converted it into a St. Amour layup. The play began an 11-5 run by Middlebury that gave the Panthers a nine-point cushion, at 82-73, with 1:10 left in the game.
Bates maximized the final minute of regulation, scoring 11 points in the last 52 seconds. Marcus Delpeche made a pair of foul shots, then stole the ball from St. Amour and turned it into a layup to cut the lead to 82-77. St. Amour was then fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws, and Gilpin made it a four-point game with a layup. Daly then made 1-of-2 at the line and Gilpin answered with his fourth three of the game, closing it to 84-82 with 27 seconds left. St. Amour was then fouled and made both foul shots, and after an offensive putback by Malcolm Delpeche, Daly made both of his free throws to secure the win at 88-84.
Bates outrebounded Middlebury 41-40 but lost the turnover battle 18-8. The Bobcats outshot Middlebury from long distance, making 13-of-27 (.481) to the Panthers’ 10-27 (.370), and from the floor overall, .469 to .437. Middlebury made five more free throws than Bates, going 16-21 (.762) to Bates’ 11-15 (.733).
Marcus Delpeche made 5-of-10 shots from the floor and 8-10 from the free-throw line for 18 points, in addition to eight rebounds and two steals. He finishes with 1,025 points (ranking 32nd in team history) and 692 rebounds in his career. Malcolm Delpeche shot 8-14 from the field for 17 points with 11 rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot, giving him a final team-record total of 178. He finishes his career with 888 points and 637 rebounds.