Hartford, Conn. – Senior captain forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and added seven rebounds, four steals, and two blocks to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 71-60 victory over the visiting Colby College Mules in the opening round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Basketball Championship Tournament on Ogrodnik Court in Oosting Gymnasium this afternoon. Trinity, ranked No. 25 in the nation and seeded No. 1 in the tourney for the second season in a row, improves to 19-6 with its fifth win in a row and will host the No. 4-seeded Middlebury College Panthers in the NESCAC Semifinals next Saturday. Colby loses for the first time in four games and completes its season with a 16-9 record. The Bantams will host both NESCAC Semifinals next Saturday and the finals on Sunday, February 28.
Trailing, 28-19, at halftime, Trinity scored 52 points after halftime. The Bantams used a 12-2 run early in the second frame to tie the score for the first time at 34-34 on a coast-to-coast drive by junior swingman Chris Turnbull (Ridgewood, N.J.) with 13:29 on the clock. Colby recovered and held a slim margin for most of the next four minutes until a jumper by Trinity junior forward Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) gave the home team its first lead of the game at 43-42 with just under nine minutes left to play. Senior Patrick Stewart (Bangor, Maine) drilled a long three-pointer with 6:27 remaining to give Colby a 47-45 lead, but back-to-back drives by senior captain guard Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) and Ajayi gave the Bantams back the lead for good. The Bantams scored nine points in a row to turn a 51-49 lead into a 60-49 advantage at the 2:40 mark, and the Bantams maintained at least an eight-point edge the rest of the way.
Colby came out hot in the first half, taking an early 10-2 lead thanks largely to a pair of treys by senior Ryan Jann (Westford, Mass.). A jumper by Bantam junior guard Langdon Neal (Chicago, Ill.) pulled Trinity to within four points at 12-8 at the 12:42 mark, but the Mules stayed in control throughout the opening stanza and led by double digits from the five-minute mark until a put-back by Ajayi with 22 seconds on the clock sent the teams to the intermission with Colby ahead, 28-19. Colby outrebounded Trinity, 21-14, in the first half, and senior center Chris Hudnut (Chevy Chase, Md.) led all scorers with 11 points, while the Bantams were cold from the field with a 30 percent field-goal percentage and just one three-pointer in 11 attempts. Neither team shot a free throw in the opening stanza.
Trinity reversed its shooting woes in the second half, connecting on 60.7 percent of its field-goal attempts. Senior captain Rick Naylor (Sudbury, Vt.) and Starks both joined Ajayi as second-half, double-digit scorers, as Starks finished with 13 points and six assists and Naylor scored all 10 of his points after intermission. Ogundeko contributed 10 points and a game-high 11 boards, while Bantam senior captain Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.) dished five assists. Jann paced Colby with 23 points, while Hudnut added 16 points. Senior Luke Westman (Newton, Mass.) grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and Stewart registered nine points and seven boards for the Mules.
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