Hartford, Conn. - Senior Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) led the way with 20 points and senior Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and junior Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) dropped in 16 points each as the Trinity College men's basketball team clinched first place in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with a 97-86 victory over the Middlebury Panthers on Senior Day this afternoon. Trinity finishes the regular season with a 17-6 overall record and a 9-1 mark in conference play while Middlebury ends the season at 14-10 and 6-4 in NESCAC action, finishing in fourth place. The Bantams will host the NESCAC tournament for the second straight year.
Both teams got off to a hot start in the first few minutes of fast-paced action as Trinity found themselves with a 9-7 lead early in the first half. Middlebury sophomore Adisa Majors (New York, N.Y.) kept the Panthers within arms reach of Trinity in the first half, highlighted by a pretty spin move in the paint that gave Middlebury a 14-13 lead, however Trinity followed with a 13-3 run that was stopped when Panther junior Liam Naughton (Darien, Conn.) drilled a corner three which cut the lead to 26-21 in favor of the Bantams. Trinity extended an eight-point lead and had possession for the last shot of the half where the Bantams got three shots up before Ajayi came down with a rebound and quickly put up a shot that fell through the net, beating the buzzer to give Trinity a ten-point lead entering the half. Middlebury had just four first half turnovers but were out-rebounded, 18-11, by Trinity, including ten combined boards from Ajayi and Ogundeko.
The Bantams opened up a 55-39 to start the second half thanks largely in part to Starks who scored 15 second half points. Middlebury entered the bonus with 14:19 to play and chipped away at Trinity's lead, however the Bantams held strong, never trailing by more than eight in the second half. A Zach Baines (Stamford, Conn.) three-pointer cut the Middlebury deficit to 14, however Trinity got to the free-throw line 20 times in the second half and finished the game 21-27 from the charity stripe as they iced the game down the stretch to come away with the victory.
Ogundeko added a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with his 16 points and sophomore Eric Gendron (Merrimack, N.H.) finished with nine points for Trinity. Senior Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.) led the team with six assists while he dropped in seven points as well. For Middlebury, Majors led the team with 15 points and eight boards while Brian Jones (Shelton, Conn.) scored all 14 of his points in the final 5:25. Matt St. Amour (Swanton, Vt.) finished with 12 points for the Panthers.
Trinity will host the No. 8 seeded Colby Mules next weekend in the first game of the NESCAC Tournament.