LEWISTON — Down by nine points early in the second half Friday night, there was no need to panic or fret.

The Bates College men’s basketball team didn’t let a flurry of Wesleyan 3’s and a nine-point lead fluster them in a  key NESCAC showdown at Alumni Gym.

The Bobcats shrugged off the deficit and calmly produced a thrilling comeback for a 74-66 win over the Cardinals.

“Fortunately and unfortunately, we’ve been down a lot,” Bates coach Jon Furbush said. “So we’ve clawed our way back in. So it wasn’t foreign territory. I think that speaks volumes to the character of our guys. We keep grinding. It’s the next possession and next play. We don’t try to take that shot that can erase a 10-point lead. We focus on the process and let the results happen.”

Graham Safford had 22 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to lead the Bates charge. Safford had five 3’s, including one that opened a one-point lead into a 67-63 advantage with 1:11 left.

“I felt good,” Safford said. “I got on a roll. We started to get stops, and that’s when we’re at our best. We got stops, and we were pushing the ball. We picked up the tempo a little bit and everything flowed from there.”


Bates (13-4) outscored Wesleyan 19-8 midway through the second half to rally from the nine-point deficit. Safford had 12 points during that surge, including a pair of 3’s.

“A lot of it had to do with Graham Safford,” Furbush said. “He took control and made some great plays. Overall, it was just a great win for us.”

Safford also had six rebounds and four assists as Bates improved to 8-0 at home. Mike Boornazian had 13 points for the Bobcats while Marcus Delpeche added nine points and Billy Selmon chipped in seven. Malcolm Delpeche had six points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

The Cardinals (13-6) got 16 from Joe Edmonds and 15 each from Jack Mackey and Harry Rafferty.

Wesleyan is coached by former Bates coach Joe Reilly, who is in his seventh season with the Cardinals. Reilly coached at Bates for 11 seasons. Bates and Wesleyan were each 2-2 in the NESCAC standings coming into the game.

“It’s a great win for us,” Furbush said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. I played for Coach Reilly when I was here at Bates. I knew this was a team that was not going to go away. They made it interesting right up to the final 30 seconds. It was a great battle.”


Leading 33-29 at the half, the Cardinals opened the lead early in the second half. After a Boornazian 3 tied the game at 38-38 with 16:04 left, Wesleyan opened the lead with a 9-0 run on 3’s by BJ Davis, Edmonds and Mackey.

“We really tried to focus on not getting too high in the good times and not getting too low,” Safford said. “I’m really proud of the guys for keeping our heads up the whole game.”

Safford and Edmonds traded baskets. Then Boornazian and Safford drilled back-to-back 3’s and the lead was down to 49-46 with 9:23 left.

After a basket by Joseph Kuo, Bates ran off a 7-2 spurt that got the Bobcats within 54-53. Safford had five of those points and Marcus Delpeche had a pair of free throws during that surge.

“Our defense got us going,” Safford said. “We started to get some stops and that’s really what kicked it off for us.”

The Cardinals were hitting shots early in the half, but the Bobcats defense started to buckle down and limit Wesleyan’s open looks. Meanwhile. Safford got the hot hand and Bates started to change the momentum. The Bobcats shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half after going 37.9 percent in the opening half.


“It took us a while to get into a flow,” Furbush said. “I think once we got it going, we carried it through the rest of the game. We just rode that momentum.”

Bates took the lead when Safford stole the ball and drew a foul with 5:47 left. He sank two free throws to make it 57-56. Wesleyan tied it with a foul shot by Kou. Then Marcus Delpeche broke the tie from the line and Safford hit a 3 to make it 61-57 with 3:52 left. Selmon added a free throw with 3:14 remaining for a 62-57 lead.

Wesleyan wasn’t done though. A 3 from Mackey cut the lead to two. After a dunk by Malcolm Delpeche on the other end, Davis drilled a 3 from the corner to make it 64-63 with 1:44 remaining.

Safford provided the cushion moments later with a 3 on the right side. That gave Bates a 67-63 lead. Wesleyan got within two again, but the Bobcats secured the win from the line.

“I came off the screen and the big guy switched out,” Safford said. “I thought I could get it off— and I did. Marcus set a great screen.”

After a Selmon free throw with 40 seconds left, Harry Rafferty hit a 3 from the corner to make it 68-66 with 32 seconds left. The Cardinals were forced to foul and the Bobcats finished the game off with free throws by Boornazian, Safford and Marcus Delpeche.


“We talked about starting the second half strong and we didn’t,” Safford said. “They went on a run and we were down by nine. We really stuck together and kept our level heads.”

Bates got some strong defensive play down the stretch, especially from Malcolm Delpeche, who had a number of key blocks in the final minutes. He also finished off a steal by his brother for the dunk that gave Bates a four-point advantage.

“Once we ran them off the 3-point line and made them drive the ball, our bigs did a great job protecting the rim,” Furbush said. “Even when they didn’t block it, they altered a lot of shots.”

Bates led for most of the first half, but the Cardinals produced a late run to take the lead at the break. Wesleyan tied it 24-24 on a 3 by Mackey. Then free throws by Jordan Sears, a 3 from Rafferty and a basket by Edmonds made it 33-29 at the half.

“We talked at halftime,” Safford said. “We had a bunch of turnovers and we were getting out-rebounded. It was all correctable stuff.”


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