By Peter McClelland
(Wollaston) You may recall the Old Testament reference to the “Red Sea parting.” Well, after the Gordon game on Saturday night the “red sea partied.”
The “red sea” was the large gathering (over 700) of Eastern Nazarene fans at the home game with Gordon on Saturday night. They got into that partying mode after enjoying the Crusaders upset of Gordon 80-73 in Commonwealth Coast Conference action in Wollaston.
The Scots now slip to 8-8 and have fallen to 5-2 in the CCC. After playing Endicott tough on Tuesday night and winning their first five conference games before that you had to suspect that a struggling team like ENC would be in trouble.
Not so on this night. The (5-9) Crusaders found ways to succeed while Gordon played just poorly enough to lose.
Gordon coach Mike Schauer refused to assess the game afterwards for fear that he might violate the rule my mother taught me – “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”
In this one the Scots put together a couple of first half runs but ENC always responded. First it was 9 straight powered by Ryan Smith (17 in the first half) that put Gordon ahead 28-20 but ENC rallied in the next three minutes to close to 29-28. Another run put the Scots in front 36-29 but the Crusaders again rallied and led 40-39 at halftime.
In the second half it was ENC’s turn to build up the leads and then have to withstand Gordon rushes. It took the Scots three minutes to score in the second half (Scott Allenby trey) and after six minutes Gordon trailed 56-47.
It was at this point the Scots matchup zone started to take effect and boy did the Crusaders cool off. ENC missed seven shots in a row over the next 4 ½ minutes and Gordon found themselves with the lead 57-56 with nine minutes left.
“We didn’t score for four minutes,” recalled ENC coach Corey Zink afterwards. “I called a timeout and told them that we just couldn’t stand around. We had to take the ball to the basket to force fouls or open up outside shots.”
Sure enough, ENC penetration and a kickout pass to Matt Chewning and the drought ended. Hayes Murray’s free throws tied the score at 59 but a 3-point play the hard way by Edson Cardoso (21 points, 12 in the second half) and then another trey by Chewning (23 points, 15 in the second half) and the Crusaders would never trail again.
The Scots, however, did not go away quietly. The Crusaders padded their lead to 75-65 with 3+ minutes left before freshman Jerry Logan led Gordon to eight straight points with 2 assists and 2 free throws and the ENC margin shrank to 75-73 with 1+ minutes remaining.
Edson Cardoso followed with two clutch free throws and the lead was back up to four (77-73). The Scots had two chances for a last-minute comeback but a rushed long-range air ball followed by an unwise floater sealed the defeat.
“It’s a great rivalry,” explained coach Zink. “You get a few more fans than usual and things can get loud. It is also a game where the records coming in mean nothing.”
I suspect what troubled coach Schauer the most was Gordon’s refusal to play like the better team. With ENC seldom having anyone taller than 6’2” on the court you’d expect the Scot inside game to sizzle. Didn’t happen. ENC outrebounded Gordon 42-33.
Free throw shooting was also a disaster. The Scots missed 12 including a number that were the first shots on 1-and-1’s.
But credit ENC and the “sea of red” that attended. Their leaders stepped up and delivered. One excruciating play for Gordonites to watch was Matt Chewning stealing Hayes Murray’s crosscourt pass and breaking away for a lay-up and a free throw with four minutes left. Chewning defended Ryan Smith throughout and got burned for 17 in the first half but limited the Hamilton senior to just five in the second half.
So it’s back to the drawing board for Gordon. And the schedule is not doing them any favors for a speedy recovery. Tuesday night they travel to a place (New London NH) where visiting CCC opponents have lost the last 50 games. Also consider that Gordon stunned Colby-Sawyer last week at Wenham – revenge factor. And top that with the beating (47-17 at the half) I saw Colby-Sawyer put on highly regarded Endicott Saturday afternoon. Isn’t there a snowstorm scheduled??
Ahead for ENC is a trip to Rhode Island next Tuesday to take on CCC South leader Roger Williams.