By Peter McClelland
(Biddeford, Maine) – Gordon put together several scoring runs in the first half and built a comfortable cushion that carried them through a stumbling second half and on to a, 68-51, win over the University of New England Nor’Easters at Biddeford in Commonwealth Coast Conference action on Thursday night.
The victory pushes the Scots to a terrific 19-5 overall and 12-3 in the CCC. UNE drops to 9-15 overall and 5-10 in the CCC. Despite the losing record, however, the Nor’Easters have secured the 4th and final spot in the CCC North and will join the Scots in the playoffs starting next Tuesday.
“I’m not too frustrated because it was a win,” said Gordon coach Mike Schauer afterwards, “but we need to play better if we are to be serious contenders for the CCC title.” Last time against UNE coach Schauer was able to clear his bench but not in this one.
This game might have been a whole lot closer if UNE’s top scorer Nyaten Gaye (22 points in the first game at Gordon) had played. He was with the team but not in uniform. “I don’t have a comment on why he wasn’t playing,” said UNE coach Dave Labbe after the game.
Needless to say, UNE struggled to score consistently and it got them in trouble in the first half. The Nor’Easters had an early 8-5 lead before Gordon ran off nine straight to grab the lead for good, 14-8. UNE answered with a 4-point play by Mark Regis but Gordon ran off 10 in a row and the score became 24-12. A few minutes later the Scots clicked on 8 unanswered points and built up a 35-17 advantage with two minutes left in the half.
“Gordon puts five good players on the court at all times and it’s tough to defend them,” said coach Labbe. “They’re a veteran team and it shows.”
UNE paid special attention to Scott Beebe. “I think they had a box-and-one going against Scott,” said coach Schauer. “He handled it beautifully. A lot of times great players in that situation will try and force things but he never did. He just let our other players win the game. He’s a star player who was willing to take a subservient role for the sake of the team.”
Leading the way for Gordon were the usual suspects – Josh Sylvester (18 points), Joe Witherspoon (16 points/10 rebounds) and Hayes Murray (12 points). An aggressive man-to-man defense forced 15 turnovers in that decisive first half with a number of them resulting in fast break lay-ups.
UNE made things entertaining in the second half with a scrambling style that gave the Scots fits at times. However, the closest UNE got was 37-24 early in the second half. “We’re not very deep so we can’t scramble around and press for 40 minutes,” said coach Labbe, “but I was as proud as heck at the way our guys competed tonight. It sure was better than the last time (96-57 loss) we played.”
Coach Schauer wasn’t as thrilled with his team. “We have practiced a bit dispassionately the last few days and that’s the way we played at times tonight. However, it was a win and a road win at that.”
Next for Gordon is the regular season finale at home against struggling New England College on Saturday afternoon. The Scots buried the Pilgrims in Henniker earlier. Who’d have imagined that a Gordon mens’ basketball team could have a chance to win 20 games in a season?
After the CCC games on Saturday we will learn who our first round opponent will be on Tuesday. It is almost certain the Scots will be on the road.