Middlebury, Vt. – The Middlebury College Panthers, ranked No. 7 in the nation, escaped with a 57-56 win against the visiting Trinity College Bantams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular-season finale for both teams this afternoon. The Bantams finish the regular season at 13-11 overall and 4-5 in the NESCAC, while the Panthers improve to 20-1 and complete their league slate at 8-1. The Bantams had already secured the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC Championship Tournament and will host Tufts in the quarterfinals on Sat., Feb. 19 at 3 p.m.
Middlebury out strong early, jumping to a 10-5 lead, but a 7-0 run by the Bantams at the gave them a 16-14 advantage on a hoop from senior guard Ian Fels (Miami, Fla.) with 8:53 remaining. The Panthers led by as many as nine later in the half, before Trinity ended the first 20 minutes on a 5-0 spurt to cut the lead to 25-21 at the break. Middlebury turned the ball over 11 times in the first half (none in the second), with Trinity committing 10 of their own.
Middlebury's Ryan Sharry scored nine points in the opening five minutes of the second half to give the Panthers a 36-29 lead at the 15:47 mark. Trinity chipped away, tying the game at 42-42 after a pair of threes from senior tri-captain forward Luke MacDougall (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) and freshman swingman Eric Dean (Gilford, N.H.) with 8:57 left to play. With the game tied at 51-51, the Panthers went on a quick 6-0 spurt, taking a 57-51 advantage with 2:12 left in the game. MacDougall hit a bucket for the Bantams to cut the lead to 57-55 with 52 seconds left to play. Following a timeout, the Panthers missed a shot with 13 seconds left, and then fouled Fels with just over two seconds remaining. Fells missed the first and then tried to intentionally missed the second shot, but banked it in. Middlebury called a timeout and successfully inbound the ball and run out the clock to secure the win.
MacDougall scored a game-high 19 for Trinity on 6-for-10 shooting, while senior guard Brian Ford (Bronx, N.Y.) scored 11 points. Sharry led the team with 17 points and four blocks, while Joey Kizel netted 14 in the game.