Panthers Pull Away From Trinity; Will Play Williams For NESCAC Title

Matt Folger tied a career high with 11 points during Saturday's victory over Trinity.
Matt Folger tied a career high with 11 points during Saturday's victory over Trinity.

The Middlebury men's basketball team advanced to the NESCAC Championship game for the second-straight season and sixth time overall after defeating fifth-seeded Trinity (16-10) by a 76-60 score in a game played at Tufts' Cousens Gymnasium. The second-seeded and ninth-ranked Panthers (23-3), who claimed the 2016 NESCAC Championship, will meet sixth-seeded Williams, an 81-65 winner over the top-seeded Jumbos, in the championship game at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.

In the opening few minutes, both teams struggled to find the shooting touch, as the Bantams grabbed a 5-4 lead on a jumper from Chris Turnbull with 16:12 left. The Panthers tallied the next six points, capped off by a basket from Matt St. Amour, for a 10-5 lead with 12:47 remaining. After buckets from Trinity's Eric Gendron and Langdon Neal cut the Panther edge to one (10-9), Middlebury rattled off a 9-1 run for a 19-10 lead on a layup from Nick Tarantino with 7:32 showing on the first-half clock.

A jumper on Trinity's next possession from Connor Merinder pulled the Bantams back to within seven. The Panthers closed the half with 16 of the final 24 points, including a three from Perry DeLorenzo at the halftime buzzer, for a 35-20 edge at the break.

In the second half, the Bantams chipped away at the Panther advantage in the opening minutes, edging to within nine (42-33) on a three-point field goal from Chris Turnbull with 14:38 left. Over the next 4:37 of action, Middlebury reeled off an 18-4 run for its largest lead of the game at 23 (60-37) on a jumper from Adisa Majors with 10:01 to play. Matt Folger had eight points for the Panthers during the spurt, including a pair of threes.

The Bantams could only get as close as 13 (71-58) on a three from Turnbull with 2:27 remaining, as the Panthers maintained a double-digit lead over the remainder of the contest, securing their spot in Sunday's title game.

St. Amour led four Panthers in double figures with a team-high 18 points on 5-8 shooting from the floor. The senior has 573 points this season, eclipsing his mark of 566 set last winter for the second-best single-season total behind John Humphrey '88 during the 1987-88 season with 621. Folger tied a career high with 11 points on a perfect 4-4 from the floor and 3-3 from beyond the arc, while Majors had 11 and pulled down a career-high tying nine rebounds. Jack Daly had a nice all-around game of 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a team-best three steals, while Jake Brown tallied nine points and a game-best four assists. Tarantino added eight rebounds and six points in 24 minutes of play.

Turnbull paced Trinity with a game-high 23 points, including four threes, while Gendron was also in double figures with 10. Ed Ogundeko had a game-high 13 rebounds for the Bantams.

The Panthers shot 52.1 percent from the floor (25-48) and 46.2 percent from three-point range (6-13), including 55.6 percent (5-9) in the second half. Middlebury's defense limited the Bantams to only 38.5 percent from the floor (25-65) and 23.5 percent from beyond the arc (4-17). The Panthers held a decided 45-31 rebounding edge and 31-8 advantage in bench scoring.