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Trinity Men's Basketball Holds Off Hamilton In Overtime

Shay Ajayi '16 had 29 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals
Shay Ajayi '16 had 29 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals

Hartford, Conn. - Senior captain Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) totaled game-highs of 29 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 96-86 overtime win against the visiting Hamilton College Continentals in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men's basketball action this evening on Ogrodnik Court in Oosting Gymnasium.  Trinity wins its third game in a row and will clinch the top seed in the NESCAC Championship Tournament for the second-straight year with a win against Middlebury or a Hamilton win at Amherst tomorrow.  The Bantams sank 35 of 38 shots from the foul line (92.1 percent) and outscored Hamilton, 16-6, in overtime to improve to 17-6 overall and 8-1 in the conference.  The Continentals, still alive for a post-season bid, drop to 11-12 overall and 2-7 in the league.

After Hamilton forced overtime with a clutch three-pointer with seven seven seconds left in regulation by senior guard Jack Donnelly (Locust, N.J.), Trinity fell behind, 82-80, on a pair of early free throws by Continental sophomore guard Jack Dwyer (Monroe, N.Y.) one minute into the extra session.  Eight straight Bantam points turned the tables, however, beginning with three free throws by senior captain Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) after he was fouled on a three-point attempt from the top of the key.  Bantam junior guard Langdon Neal (Chicago, Ill.) then made a steal and fast-break layup, and sophomore Eric Gendron (Merrimack, N.H.) followed up with a trey from the left win for an 88-82 Bantam lead with 2:19 on the clock.  Trinity went on to sink eight more foul shots in as many tries, finishing 11-for-11 from the line in overtime, to hold off the Continentals.

Trinity led, 41-34, at halftime as Ajayi closed the half with two free throws for the last two of his 15 points before the break.  Donnelly had made a pair of foul shots with to make the score, 14-13, in Trinity's favor midway through the first half, but the Bantams scored 10 points in a row including five by senior captain Rick Naylor (Sudbury, Vt.) to go ahead, 24-13, at the eight-minute mark.  The Bantams led by 12, 31-19, two minutes later on a long ball by rookie guard Erick Santana (Union City, N.J.), but back-to-back triples in the closing minutes of the first half by Hamilton rookies Michael Grassey (Winchester, Mass.) and Tim Doyle (Schenectady, N.Y.) pulled the visitors to within five at 39-34 inside the the last minute before intermission.

In the second half, Dwyer tied the game at 46-46 with a jumper and Grassey scored the contest's next four points to cap off a 12-0 Continental run and hand the Bantams a 50-46 deficit with 13:26 on the clock.  Trinity responded with an 8-0 run to take back the lead, and later went ahead by 10 at 63-53 when Starks made a steal in the backcourt and flipped the ball up to junior Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) for a thunderous dunk with 9:18 left to play.  Hamilton trailed, 76-66, with 3:37 remaining in the second half, but closed regulation with an 11-2 spurt including the last seven on a layup by Dwyer, a jumper by sophomore guard Joe Pucci (New York, N.Y.), and Donnelly's three-pointer.  Neal hit iron with a 17-foor jumper as time expired, and Trinity was forced into its first overtime of the season.

Ogundeko and Starkls joined Ajayi in double figures in scoring for the Bantams with 13 and 10 points, respectively, while Ogundeko also had eight boards and three blocks, and Starks added five rebounds and four assists.  Starks also tied the College's all-time three-pointer record with the 208th of his career, tying John Halas at the top of Trinity'a all-time list.  Dwyer and rookie Peter Hoffmann (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) scored 17 apiece for Hamilton, while Grassey added 16 points, and Donnelly had 14 points.  Hoffman also paced the Continentals on the boards with nine and added two blocks, while Dwyer dished a game-high 11 assists.  Hamilton was 17-for-20 from the foul line in the first 40 minutes but missed half of its eight from the charity stripe in overtime.