WATERVILLE — As a rare fifth-year senior in Division III college basketball, Colby College’s Patrick Stewart is the wise old-timer of the Mules. Stewart, a Bangor native, missed the entire 2014-15 season with a back injury. Now, with eight first-year players on Colby’s roster, Stewart is the unquestioned leader of the Mules.

“I was part of a group of seven guys who came in. To have those other six guys move on, and bring in eight new first year players, it’s been a great chance for me to take a little bit more of a leadership role, and try and pass on my experiences with my group as best I can to this new group of guys,” Stewart said.

On Saturday afternoon at Wadsworth Gym, against rival Bowdoin, Stewart showed everyone how leadership is done. The 6-foot-6 forward scored a game-high 28 points, including 18 of Colby’s 55 second half points, leading the Mules to a come-from-behind 87-82 win over the Polar Bears. Both teams are now 9-9 and 1-5 in New England Small College Athletic Conference play.

“For us as a team, it’s about trying to stick with it and certainly being so young, we’re learning a lot. We’ve had some fantastic moments, and some moments when we’ve really struggled,” Colby coach Damien Strahorn said. “I thought in the second half, we were able to move the ball. We were able to get some switches and find Stew on the block a couple times. We were able to get better ball movement, and guys stepped up and made shots.”

Bowdoin led by as much as 15 points in the first half, but the Mules were able to cut the deficit to 39-32 at the break. It wasn’t that Colby was getting bad shots in the first half, but in the second half, the Mules passes were quicker and crisper, and looks became more open. Colby made 12 3-pointers in the game. From the field, the Mules shot 49.1 percent, including 53.3 percent in the second half. After committing nine turnovers in the first half, the Mules turned the ball over just three times in the second.

“The shots were going in. That’s all I can say about that. We knew we’d have some great looks if we executed the way we wanted to. We were a little disappointed with how we executed in the first half,” Stewart said. “We have a very capable group of guys, so we wanted to commit to, whoever had the open shot had the confidence to take it.”

A Stewart basket tied the game at 49-49 with 13:19 to play. With just under 10:30 to go, Ethan Schlager’s three gave the Mules the lead for good, 54-52.

“For us, we have a group of guys who can really shoot it. When they get going it builds on itself, and the confidence goes (up),” Strahorn said.

Colby’s greatest lead was eight points, 80-72, when Stewart made a long jumper with just over one minute to play. That was Colby’s final field goal, as the Mules made 7 of 10 free throws in the final 51 seconds to hold off the Polar Bears rally.

While Bowdoin shot 55.4 percent for the game, Colby did a good job defending Falmouth native Jack Simonds. Averaging just under 21 points per game, Simonds was held to 13 points.

“He’s such a fantastic player. You’re talking about a guy who can score at the highest level here in Division III,” Strahorn said of Simonds. “I think we were able to crowd his space. We had a couple opportunities where we went with a second guy on him when he was spinning. I though that was opportunistic on our end.”

Guard Jack Bors came off the bench and led Bowdoin with 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Hugh O’Neil had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Polar Bears.

Sam Jefferon scored 17 points for Colby, including four 3-pointers. Tyler Williams had seven assists for the Mules.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM