(Beverly) – “You can’t stop him. You can’t stop him.”
I don’t ordinarily pay much attention to crowd chants but I think that the large Endicott turnout (estimated at 1000) had it right. The “him” was once again Nemanja Marinkovic and again he led the Gulls to a victory over Gordon. This time it was 76-62 in a game played on Tuesday evening at Endicott.
The freshman from Serbia poured in 23 points from in close and was dominating on the boards with 13 rebounds. “We just didn’t have anyone to play him,” explained Gordon coach Mike Schauer afterwards. “Al (Yeats) did a decent job but he got into foul trouble and we had no one else.”
The mention of Marinkovic’s performance brought a smile to Endicott coach Mike Plansky’s face. “He really gave them a lot of trouble. I’m just happy that he’s going to be here for three more years.” I’m thinking that if he played against Gordon more (first game he had 28 points and 20 rebounds) he’d get recruited by a D1 or D2 school. Maybe it’s time to make some calls!
The win advances the Gulls unbeaten streak to seven games and puts them at 9-2 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. They haven’t lost to a team not named Colby-Sawyer since December 4th. Imagining Endicott playing Colby-Sawyer in the CCC championship game is not far-fetched. “We have to find a way to beat them,” said coach Plansky.
The loss drops Gordon to 7-5 in the CCC and 10-11 overall. The last four games (Anna Maria, Wentworth, UNE, and NEC) are against teams with losing records. “With four games left I told the guys that unless we disband we should be able to get into the playoffs,” said coach Schauer.
After the first go-round with Endicott (62-56 loss on January 20th) it was hoped that defensive answers would be found. They weren’t. And to compound things the Scots were defended into one of their worst shooting performances of the season (20 for 60 – 33%). “We’re a perimeter team and if we don’t make shots we’re not going to win,” admitted coach Schauer.
“We did a pretty good job of staying with their shooters,” understated coach Plansky. Gordon’s two big guns, Hayes Murray and Ryan Smith, were 8 for 26 overall and just 5 for 17 from long range thanks to a man-to-man defense that allowed few open shots.
Endicott never trailed in this one. They jumped on Gordon with a 9-0 start in the first 3 ½ minutes. Marinkovic did most of the damage with 3 lay-ups that spelled trouble right away.
The Scots did fight back. “Give Mike (Schauer) credit,” said coach Plansky, “his team battles. They fought on the boards even though we were bigger than them.” A steal and a breakaway lay-up by Scott Allenby had Gordon back to 21-18 with 8 ½ minutes until halftime.
However, another Gull surge (seven straight points) and the lead was back up to ten (28-18). Again Gordon rallied and with a Hayes Murray trey and a Ryan Smith free throw they closed to 37-31 in the last minute. But the best passer on the court (Josh Oxton) found teammate Zach Ellis open for a buzzer-beating jumper and Endicott led 39-31 at the half.
When Ryan Smith came out and drilled the first shot of the second half from beyond the arc you had to think that the second half might go a different way. But not on this night. The Gulls had scoring answers and most of them were high percentage inside shots.
Gordon closed to 58-51 on a Pete Hassler free throw but Endicott answered with a 6-1 run to pull away 64-52 with 5 minutes left. A Hayes Murray trey narrowed things to 68-61, with a little over two minutes to go, but then the young man from Serbia twisted and spun for two lay-ups and this game went into the, “You-can’t-stop-him” stage.
To coach Mike Schauer this was a game of inches. “Our biggest problem tonight was that we just can’t rebound the ball. We have some 6’7” kids who want to come to Gordon and we hope to have next year.” This was a night when their arrival couldn’t happen soon enough!
The crowd at Endicott was awesome. “The support that we get here from the crowd is fantastic,” said coach Plansky. Combined with a speaker system set at rock concert level you could sense what a home court advantage feels like.
Beyond Marinkovic’s 23 points came Josh Oxton (12 points/6 assists) and Jeremy Currier (11 points/6 rebounds). On one memorable player Currier was up on the rim battling for a rebound and then closed the possession off by draining a three.
Hayes Murray led the Scots with 15 points followed by Scott Allenby with 14 and Ryan Smith with 12.
On Thursday night Endicott hosts winless New England College while Gordon travels to Paxton to face Anna Maria.