WELLESLEY, Mass. — Thirty-three percent shooting proficiency didn’t get it done for Bates against Trinity during the regular season. Twenty-nine percent surely wasn’t enough to boost the Bobcats past the Bantams in the third round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.

Thrown for a loop by an 11-minute, 36-second field goal drought Friday evening, Bates never fully recovered and succumbed to its New England Small College Athletic Conference rival, 79-62, before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,500 at Staake Gymmasium.

Graham Safford overcame a twisted right ankle and knee to amass 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals in his final game for Bates (21-7). He rallied the Bobcats from a 15-point deficit to within six, then five, before Trinity (23-6) took off to its third Elite Eight.

“For whatever reason we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Safford said. “A lot of that is Trinity’s defense. They’re going to make you work for every shot. We got the shots and didn’t hit them.”

Jaquann Starks matched Safford’s 20 and was the Bobcats’ worst nightmare from the perimeter. The junior was 4-for-5 from 3-point range, each one answering Bates points.

“We made a couple runs, but credit Trinity for making some tough shots and coming back on the other end,” Bates coach Jon Furbush said. “Almost all their 3-point makes came off a run that we were making. Ten seconds into the shot clock they would get a quick transition 3 that slowed us down.

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Shay Ajayi scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for Trinity, which owned a 45-32 advantage on the glass. George Papadeas added nine points and Ed Ogundeko and Chris Turnbull eight apiece for the Bantams.

Trinity’s bench outscored Bates’ reserves by a 28-3 margin. Many of those contributions came during the Bobcats’ titanic deep freeze.

Bates didn’t make a field goal between Mike Boornazian’s foul-line jump shot with 9:17 left in the first half and his layup with 17:41 remaining in the game. The Bobcats scored only seven points from the line during that span, and the Bantams reversed a 17-15 deficit into a 39-24 cushion.

“Our guys did a great job defensively. The first half they shot 20 percent against us. They’re a very good team and our guys did a good job clamping down on them on the defensive end,” Trinity coach James Cosgrove said. “They made some baskets to close the gap, but our guys were very resilient down the stretch making the plays offensively and defensively that we needed.”

Malcolm Delpeche scored 16 points, including 10-for-12 from the free-throw line, and blocked three shots for Bates. Twin brother Marcus Delpeche added 10.

Trinity held 1,000-point scorer Boornazian to seven, less than half his average, and harassed Bates into 16-for-55 shooting. Bates was 2-for-20 from beyond the arc, missing its first dozen tries until Safford’s 25-foot bomb made it 55-50.

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That comeback bid, Bates’ second substantial surge of the half, didn’t look like it would happen after Safford crashed into the padding behind the baseline after Malcolm Delpeche blocked a Trinity shot. Billy Selmon made a fast break jumper at the other end before the game was whistled to a halt, with Safford writhing in obvious pain.

“My ankle and knee got twisted, but as soon as I got over it I knew I’d be back in there at some point,” Safford said.

He returned less than two minutes of clock time later, limping only slightly, the knee braced with athletic tape.

The Delpeches fueled Bates’ first revival. Malcolm’s 3-point play and Marcus’ dunk highlighted an 11-2 run that trimmed Trinity’s lead to 41-35.

“They’re very aggressive,” Malcolm Delpeche said. “They definitely make you work. They get good position. The offense they play, they always seem to have two guys around the post at all times.”

And that pays off for the 5-8 Starks, who led the Bantams in scoring during the season and has stepped it up to 16.3 per game during the tournament.

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He answered the Delpeche jam with a bonus-ball dagger at the other end.

“Our bigs are so good that when we get it into the post, guards have to help,” Starks said. “That’s why the ball comes back to me. When you make one, you feel like you can make them all.”

Safford’s 3-point play just inside the 10-minute mark cut the margin to single digits for the third time. Ajayi and Ogundeko kept the Bantams afloat with inside baskets during Bates’ subsequent push.

The Ogundeko hoop started a 10-0 run, including another Starks trey, and amassed a 65-50 edge with 4:13 to go.

Trinity edged Bates 66-59 on Jan. 16 in a similar defensive grind.

“NESCAC teams are tough,” Ajayi said. “You never know who’s going to win, but we felt we had enough today to take on this battle.”

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Both teams struggled to develop an offensive flow. Fifty fouls were called.

Trinity took advantage by shooting 23-for-27 from the line. Bates benefited from the double bonus early in each half and went 28-for-42.

“I’ll have to look at the tape, but the amount of free throws we took, I’ll sign up for that every game,” Furbush said. “The looks that we did get in our half-court offense, I’ll take those as well. Not to be too simple, but a lot of times it comes down to who makes more shots.”

Staake was Alumni Gym South at the start of the game, with 90 percent of the fans in the floor-level bleacher section outfitted in Bates scarlet.

Noise from the student section was deafening, and Bates rode the emotional wave to early leads of 3-0 and 8-4.

“Playing a conference team excited us,” Starks said. “Their crowd was into it. We didn’t let that get to us. We fed off their energy.”

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Trinity finished the first half with a 21-7 run. Starks buried his second 3-pointer of the half to give the Bantams their first lead, 18-17.

Bates also endured a brutal stretch from the free-throw line, missing 6-of-8 during a sequence in which it could have padded the lead late in the half.

The Bobcats beat St. Vincent and Richard Stockton, the latter in overtime, to reach the third round. It was the first national tournament appearance for the program since 1961.

“These guys gave me more confidence than I’ve ever had in a group, especially the last couple weeks,” Furbush said. “Just walking out there I saw people I hadn’t seen in eight to 10 years. It’s just good to know there are a lot of Bates people out there that feel part of this culture. Hopefully this lights the fire and these guys realize everything’s under our control. We have the physical talent. If we work, we can continue to do something really special.”

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