LEWISTON — Bates College’s first trip to the men’s NCAA Division III basketball tournament – and the Bobcats’ subsequent two victories – has stoked the interest of former players and other alumni from near and far.

“I’ve heard from players from the 1950s right up to last season,” said Coach Jon Furbush. “You win a few games and people become very aware of your basketball program.”

Senior guard Graham Safford of Hampden has another slant.

“The campus is buzzing,” said Safford, a four-year starter. “Professors have clapped for us when we enter their class and everywhere the team goes on campus, students are congratulating us and excited for the next game.”

That next game comes in the Sweet 16 when Bates (21-6) plays Trinity (22-6) at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts.

In the other game, Babson (27-2) plays Johns Hopkins (25-4). The winners meet at 7 p.m. Saturday for a trip to the Division III Final Four in Salem, Virginia, on March 20-21.

Although tickets for the games at Babson (its gym seats only 1,000) could be scarce, the Bobcats should have good support. Bates will send a student bus to the Trinity game. Furbush said Bates will have an alumni gathering before the game.

“We have a lot of alumni in the Greater Boston area,” said Furbush, a South Portland native and 2005 Bates graduate who is in his seventh season as head coach. He’s the older brother of Charlie Furbush, a relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.

A year ago, Bates lost its last four games to finish with an 11-13 record. They were 1-9 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. This season Bates won eight of its last 10 regular-season games and went 7-3 in the conference. The Bobcats’ 21 wins and seven wins in the conference are team records, good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

“It’s been a good year,” said Furbush. “Especially after going 1-9 in the conference last year.”

Bates returned most of its experienced players, who learned their lessons well.

“The close games we lost last year, we’ve won this year,” said junior forward Mike Boornazian of Portland, Connecticut. “We always knew we had the talent. It was just a question of utilizing it.”

Consecutive losses at Trinity (66-59) and Amherst (70-53) in mid-January caused some soul searching by the team. It worked; the Bobcats went on a six-game winning streak, including victories over NESCAC rivals Wesleyan, Williams and Hamilton. The last two were by two points each.

“After those six wins, I knew we had a chance for something good,” said Furbush.

As the season unfolded – and Bates was winning close games – Malcolm Delpeche, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center from Wilmington, Delaware, had a recurring thought: “Why not us?”

Delpeche and his twin brother, Marcus, are among the keys to the Bobcats’ success. “They’re so good on defense,” said Furbush. “They play well above the rim.”

Malcolm Delpeche had 16 rebounds against St. Vincent in the first NCAA game, and Marcus had 14 points and five rebounds. Both had 10 rebounds against Stockton in the second game.

Safford has been the team leader. The 6-foot-1 point guard leads the team in scoring and assists, and is fourth in rebounding.

“I’m going to be very sad when Graham graduates,” Furbush said.

Safford, who played two years at Camden Hills and two at Hampden Academy, is averaging 15.7 points a game. Boornazian is at 15.5.

In Bates’ first NCAA tournament game last weekend, Safford scored 30 points with 10 assists and Boornazian had 22 points in a 92-80 win over St. Vincent College of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The next night, Boornazian scored 18 points – including his 1,000th career point – in an overtime 68-59 win over Stockton University of Galloway, New Jersey, to advance to the Sweet 16.

Furbush calls Boornazian “a combination type player. He scores inside and can go outside and hit the 3.

“In the last five games, Mike has arguably been our best player.”

Furbush said the team’s other senior guard, Billy Selmon of Atlanta, has made “big defensive plays after big defensive plays.” Selmon averages 7.3 points a game.