Bates College’s James Mortimer left swats at the running floater Thomas’ Demetris Webster put up as he drives to the basket during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

LEWISTON — At 6-foot-2, Bates College junior guard Jeff Spellman towered over his defender, Thomas College sophomore Demetris Webster, who is listed at 5-foot-7.

So when the Bobcats needed a basket to complete their comeback over the Terriers in a non-conference tilt at Alumni Gym on Tuesday night, they asked Spellman to play as big as the matchup allowed.

Spellman delivered, using a screen to get into the paint, taking a feed from senior center Nick Lynch in the high post, and scoring from 6 feet out with 2.5 seconds left to give Bates a 75-73 win.

“The whole night we recognized that I had a smaller defender on me, but we didn’t really capitalize on it, I would say, until that last play,” said Spellman, who is the Bobcats’ leading scorer, averaging 14 points per game. “I mean, he might have been 5-foot-6. We just wanted to get me in the post and thought I’d either get fouled or get a clean look like I did. We ran it to perfection.”

“They had been denying us and we’d been having trouble getting the ball on the perimeter,” Bates coach Jon Furbush said. “So we thought we’d run a little brush screen off of Nick Lynch and then throw the ball to (Lynch), who was not getting a whole lot of pressure, so we figured he’d be the best person to enter it into Jeff. I mean, he had at least a 6-inch advantage down there. Worst case, he gets fouled and goes to the line.”

Thomas had to go the length of the court to try to tie or win. Their initial inbounds pass was tipped by Lynch before bouncing off a support beam on the ceiling. The Terriers inbounded again, this time cleanly to Lovegeurson Fleurine, whose desperation heave from 48 feet was well off the mark as the final horn sounded.

Spellman scored 17 points and had six assists to lead the Bobcats (4-10), who won their second game in a row. James Mortimer added 12 of his 14 points in the second half, while Kody Greenhalgh and and Lynch chipped in with 11 points apiece.

Evan Arsenault led Thomas (5-9) with 18 points, all on 6-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. Zach Mackinnon added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Coming off of an 81-71 win over rival Colby on Saturday and opening a six-game homestand against mostly NESCAC opponents, the Bobcats came out flat and shot 37 percent from the field (including 2-for-11 on 3-pointers) in the first half. 

Led by Mackinnon’s 11 points in the half, Thomas led by as much as 12 midway through the first half and answered a late Bates charge to go into intermission with a 40-32 lead.

“I think simply it was just our attitude and our mentality,” Spellman said. “We came off a big win against Colby, and sometimes when that happens you can have a little dip in the energy and the focus and I think that’s what happened to us in the first half.”

“I think the biggest thing is we hit the easy pass in the first half and we made the right decisions,” said Thomas coach Joe Scheurs, whose team shot 59 percent in the first half. “In the second half, we tried to force it a little bit and we let them get into a little bit of a run defensively.”

Perplexed by Bates’ zone defense, the Terriers missed their first 10 shots of the second half. But Bates wasn’t really able to make much headway until Mortimer, a 6-foot-4 sophomore swingman, got hot about five minutes into the half and scored all 12 points in a 12-4 Bobcat run that gave them their first lead since 7-6.

“James provided us with a huge boost. All credit to him,” Spellman said. “He’s a great player and I love to see him get going like that.”

Mortimer kicked off the run with a layup off a fast break that made it 41-37 Thomas with 15:23 left. A 3-pointer and putback gave Bates its first lead of the second half at 44-43 with 12:46 left. Mortimer later added an exclamation point to the run with a dunk off a nice feed from Eli Frater that made it 47-45.

“He can score,” Furbush said of Mortimer. “He’s a tough matchup. Typically, when he’s in the game with Jeff and (Tom) Coyne, he’s going to get the third-worst perimeter defender, and he’s going to create and make plays and score the ball. He’s a great weapon for us off the bench.”

The lead changed hands seven times over the first 10 minutes of the second half before Bates went a 12-0 run sparked by a Brandon Galloway 3-pointer. A dunk by Kenny Aruwajoye and 3-pointer by Greenhalgh made it 59-49 Bates with 7:23 remaining.

Arsenault led the Terriers back to within three with four 3-pointers in less than five minutes. Thomas again trailed by six after a three-point play by Spellman with 1:14 left.

But the Terriers, who were in the bonus, were able to score the next six in a row from the foul line, including a pair by Justin Butler that tied it at 73-73 with 22.7 seconds to go.

“Going from what I just saw us do at Colby on Saturday to the first half tonight, it was like Jekyll and Hyde,” Furbush said. “It was just good to find a way to win a close game. Our guys played real hard in the second half.”

Bates looks to build off its two-game winning streak, and 1-1 conference record, when it returns to its NESCAC schedule to host Middlebury on Friday night.

“We split our first NESCAC weekend,” Spellman said. “I think we’re going to shock some teams because I thought this team has had the potential to do really well in NESCAC play and I think we’re going to do that. We have the momentum now.”

Bates’ Kenny Aruwajoye, left and James Mortimer hauls down a rebound during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

Thomas College’s Justin Butler hits a shot off the glass as he drives to the basket on Bates’s Kenny Aruwajoye during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

Thomas College’s Jordan Goodson pulls up for a fadeaway jumper as Bates College’s Malik Velmar defends him during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

Bates men’s basketball coach Jon Furbush reacts after his team went down by 10 points during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

Bates’ Kody Greenhalgh, left, guards Thomas’ Justin Butler during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)

Bates men’s basketball coach Jon Furbush, right and other coaches and players watch the action during the first half of Tuesday’s basketball game in Lewiston. (SUN JOURNAL PHOTO BY RUSS DILLINGHAM)


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