By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) – Another chapter in The Rivalry is in the books.
Gordon found answers down the stretch and pulled out a, 73-66, victory over Eastern Nazarene College at the Bennett Center Saturday night before enthusiastic supporters from both schools in Commonwealth Coast Conference action.
This was win #16 for the Scots and their 9-2 CCC record puts them into a 3-way tie with Colby-Sawyer and Endicott atop the Northern Division. How huge is Gordon’s game next Tuesday night at Endicott?
“This rivalry with Gordon goes a long way back,” explained ENC first year coach Corey Zink afterwards. “Mike (Schauer) and I are both just learning about it.”
“The crowd was simply amazing,” added coach Schauer. “Both schools have a great fan base. I haven’t been here long enough to know where this ranks as far as crowd noise goes.” Put it up there with the best, coach!
In any good rivalry the records coming in are incidental and that was the case in this one. ENC was 7-11 and Gordon 15-4 but it didn’t matter. ENC put themselves into a position to steal this one but just didn’t have the veteran leadership down the stretch to pull it off.
“We competed hard,” said coach Zink, “but we made some mistakes down the stretch and it cost us the game.” But what mistakes they were – two turnovers, two shots blocked, an air ball free throw, and a missed dunk. And this all happened in the last three minutes after the score was tied at 65!
The missed dunk probably was the killer. Who would have expected, arguably the best player on the floor, Jamal Lyons to miss that shot on a breakaway? But he did so instead of ENC taking a 2-point lead and their crowd going nuts the Scots got the ball back. Hayes Murray followed with the most important 3-point shot of the 13 Gordon made during the game, at the two-minute mark, and the Scots never trailed again.
“People are so conscious of Scott (Beebe) and Joe (Witherspoon) but they fail to realize that Hayes (36 for 72) is very accurate from long range,” said coach Schauer. “He hit a huge one tonight.”
After getting very few clean looks at Colby-Sawyer on Thursday in New London the Scots took full advantage of first half openings against the Crusaders man defense. Gordon had six different players connect in 9 for 11 long-range shooting. They erased a 7-5 deficit with 9 points in a row and built that lead to 44-33 at halftime.
The major struggle for Gordon in the first half was coping with all the fouls their inside people picked up. When Joe Witherspoon picked up his second foul coach Schauer went deep into his bench for important minutes from Alex Yeats and Kevin Zener. “Those minutes those two young players gave us were crucial,” said coach Schauer.
The ENC crowd was a factor in the second half. The team was down but the crowd wasn’t and when the Crusaders started to heat up (ENC was only 1 for 8 with 3’s in the first half) the Scots were in trouble. They started to look as if they’d played two games in New Hampshire this week.
Grievous turnovers produced a number of breakaways and Edson Cardoso found his outside touch (three long ones) and the Crusaders came all the way back to tie things at 57 with nine minutes remaining. They even pulled ahead 62-60 on a nice backdoor cut by co-captain Jon Chesley. But that was the visitors’ only lead in the second half and they couldn’t hold it.
Josh Sylvester had plenty to do with Gordon getting the lead back and keeping it. He hit a three to get the lead back and then defended (2 blocks) and rebounded to preserve the victory. “The kid is an awfully good player,” said coach Schauer. “He also ended up covering one of the best players (Jamal Lyons) in our league.” Josh has shot 85 for 140 (60%) for the season.
Jamal Lyons paced ENC with a double/double (23 points and 15 rebounds). “He’s a handful and we just didn’t have anything we could do to stop him,” said coach Schauer.
Josh Sylvester led Gordon with 17 points followed by Hayes Murray (16), Joe Witherspoon (13) and Scott Beebe (12). Matt Chewning did a nice job defending Scott but an important play, for Gordon, was Scott faking Matt into a 3-shot foul with just two seconds left in the first half. Scott sank all three shots.
Jon Chesley (15), Edson Cardoso (14), and Matt Chewning (12) had double figures for ENC.
Before the game Scott Beebe and Joe Witherspoon were presented basketballs commemorating their reaching 1000 points in their Gordon careers.