Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2014-15 Men’s Basketball: A season to remember

BRIAN SULLIVAN ’15

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

 

The Trinity College Men’s Basketball team enjoyed by far its most successful season in recent memory this year, finishing 23-7 overall, winning the NESCAC regular season title, and ending up a few seconds shy of advancing to the Division-III Final Four. The Bantams were led by a strong group of six seniors; tri-captain center George Papadeas, tri-captain guard Hart Gliedman, tri-captain forward Steve Spirou, forward Alex Conaway, forward Austin Pidoriano, and guard Josh Peter. These seniors constituted the first recruiting class of fifth-year head coach James Cosgrove. They were joined by Jaquann Starks ’16, Shay Ajayi ’16, Andy Hurd ’16, and Rick Naylor ’16; and underclassmen Ed Ogundeko ’17, Chris Turnbull ’17, Chris Filpo ’17, and Brian Horn ’17; and Eric Gendron ’18, James McCullagh ’18, and Cord Stafford ’18.

Papadeas, the starting center for much of the season, provided an efficient interior scoring presence with 8.1 points per game on 57 percent shooting. Gliedman solidified himself as the best perimeter defender in the conference, consistently shutting down the opposing team’s best player and sacrificing his own offensive gains on the other end of the floor. Spirou was the quintessential “glue guy” for the team, facilitating others with screens on offense and taking the most charges on the team, defensively. Conaway emerged as a great two way player for the Bantams, capable of big games offensively but also able to defend the opposition’s best forward when necessary. Starks led the team on offense with 14.1 points per game, shooting 41 percent from the field and 44 percentfrom three, capturing First Team All-NESCAC honors for his efforts through the regular season. Ajayi was second on the team with 10.5 points per game, and contributed in other areas as well, averaging 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Hurd, a transfer from Division I Central Connecticut State, played a crucial role as backup point guard, playing his way into a bigger role as the season progressed, and ended up leading the team in assists with 3.2 per game. Naylor served as Gliedman’s backup as a perimeter defender, and also ended up being the second-best three point shooter on the team, shooting 36 percent from distance on the year. Ogundeko finished third on the team with 9.3 points per game, and led the squad with 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Turnbull played important minutes all season off the bench, playing a crucial role in big wins with timely three point shooting and pesky defense.

The season did not start out as planned, as the Bantams went 2-2 through the first two weekends with a pair of bad losses to Salem State and Cortland State. After that, however, the team rattled off 10 straight victories, highlighted by a pair of 30 point victories against Rivier and Norwich and a double-overtime win on the road against Williams. After a skid in which the Bantams lost 3 out of 4, including their only regular season conference loss to Tufts, the team had a 7 game win streak, which included a 16 point road win against Amherst, an overtime victory against Bowdoin, and a big win on senior night versus Colby. After finishing the conference schedule 9-1, the Bantams earned home-court throughout the NESCAC tournament, and used that to their  advantage in the quarterfinals with another win against Colby. The team ran into a red-hot Wesleyan team in the semifinals, though, and fell on their home floor 55-52. This led some to question whether or not Trinity deserved a spot in the NCAA tournament, but those fears were more than put to bed when the selection committee gave the Bantams the honor of hosting the first two rounds. In round one, Colby-Sawyer jumped out to a 24-8 lead, but over the balance of the game Trinity outscored the Chargers by 21 points to pull out a 60-55 victory. The following night against Salisbury, the Bantams stifled the Seagulls from the very start of the game and cruised to a 60-47 win. In the Sweet Sixteen, Trinity met up with conference foe Bates in a game with would decide who would be the last NESCAC team left standing in the tournament. The Bantams responded to that challenge with one of their best games of the season, blowing out the Bobcats 79-62. The next night, in the Elite Eight, Trinity had the number 4 ranked Babson Beavers on the ropes all night, leading almost the entire way and holding a 6 point advantage with 2:30 left on the clock. Babson was able to claw back to force overtime and ended Trinity’s season in a 76-69 decision. This constituted the second best finish in Trinity Basketball history, only behind the 1994 Final Four team, and resulted in the Bantams being ranked #17 in the final Division III basketball poll. A truly great season for the Bantams.

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