Babson Park, Mass. - The Trinity College men's basketball team saw its historic season come to an end with a 76-69 overtime loss against the Babson College Beavers in the NCAA Division III Sectional Finals at Babson's Staake Gymnasium this evening. The Bantams finish the year with a 23-7 record and reach the NCAA Elite Eight Round for the first time since 1998-99. Trinity junior forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) paced Trinity with 22 points and classmate Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) added 21 points, while Babson senior forward John Wickey scored a game-high 23 points.
The game was close early and late, as Trinity took an 11-8 lead at the 14-minute mark on an inside basket by sophomore forward Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and led, 16-10, on a long three-pointer by Starks before Babson scored eight points in a row to take an 18-16 lead on a layup by senior tri-captain Eric Dean at the midpoint of the first half. Trinity scored seven straight on a trey and layup by Ajayi and a Starks drive to go ahead, 28-25 with 4:27 on the clock, and the Bantams answered a go-ahead jumper by Wickey with a 13-4 run to close the first half. Another trey by Ajayi and a double-pump runner in traffic by Starks in the final minute gave Trinity a 41-33 lead at the break. Starks had 15 points and Ajayi had 12 at halftime, as Trinity shot 51.7 percent from the floor.
Babson sophomore Joey Flannery opened the second stanza with a three-pointer, but Trinity senior forward Alex Conaway (New Haven, Conn.) and Ogundeko answered with back-to-back buckets to push the Bantam lead back up to 45-36 with 15:21 remaining. The Bantams held a 50-41 lead with 12:40 left after a pretty pick-and-roll from junior guard Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.) to senior tri-captain center George Papadeas (Athens, Greece) that resulted on a backet plus a free throw, but the Beavers closed to within a bucket at 54-52 with Wickey and rookie forward Bradley Jacks scoring all 11 points during an 11-4 spurt.
Trinity held off Babson, largely due to a pair of second-chance baskets on free throws by Ajayi, and led, 65-58, with 2:50 left on Starks' third three-pointer of the night. Babson closed regulation with an 8-1 run to force overtime, however, with Wickey and Flannery making four free throws and Flannery stealing the ball on a Bantam inbounds play and finishing with a layup to make the score, 65-64, with 29 seconds left. Hurd made one of two free throws to put Trinity up, 66-64, and a Flannery drive with 13 seconds on the clock tied the game. Trinity got the ball up the floor but could not get off a shot before time expired.
In overtime, Flannery and Starks traded free throws and Ajayi answered a Wickey jumper with two more from line for a 69-all tie with one minute remaining. Sophomore Matt Droney made his only three-pointer of the game from the right corner to put the Beavers ahead, 72-69, while Hurd and Ajayi both misfired on game-tying long balls from the right wing in the final minute. Sophomore guard Sam Bohmiller and Flannery were 4-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal it for the home team.
In addition to their 43 combined points, Ajayi and Starks both grabbed eight rebounds, while Ogundeko added 10 points, six boards, and a blocked shot, and Hurd paced the Bantams with four assists. Flannery finished three shy of Wickey, who also dished four assists and blocked a shot, with 20 points, while Dean had nine points and seven rebounds for Babson which missed 10 of 21 free throws in the second half but made five of six in overtime. Trinity missed all seven of its field goal tries in the extra frame and five of six long balls in the second half. The Bantams finished with a 36-to-30 edge on the boards, but had to play the end of regulation and the extra period without Conaway and Papadeas, who had both fouled out, available down low. Trinity's 23 wins are the most for the program since the Bantams went 24-5 and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1994-95.
"I could not be more proud of what these guys have accomplished this season," said Trinity Head Coach James Cosgrove. "This team far exceeded anyone's expectations except maybe their own, and am happy and honored to be their coach. Babson hit some shots at the end and we missed ours, but we were a possession away from the Final Four."