By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) Gordon defeated the University of New England 58-52 in Commonwealth Coast Conference action on Thursday night at the Bennett Center. In what was thought to be a rebuilding season, after losing three 4-year starters, the Scots at 13-11 are assured of their second straight winning season. They will finish on the road at New England College on Saturday before starting the CCC playoffs next Tuesday as visitors to a CCC South opponent.
The Scots are now 10-5 in CCC play while UNE is 5-10. Gordon is assured of 3rd place in the CCC North while UNE is tied for 4th with Wentworth.
Watching this game was a chore and describing it not much easier. For a last game at home you hoped for some of that good long-range shooting that has been the Gordon trademark these last two years.
But the stars did not come out – Hayes Murray and Ryan Smith combined for 3 for 17 from long-range. UNE was just as bad making just 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.
“This game was really, really ugly,” concluded Gordon coach Mike Schauer. “Both teams played hard but it wasn’t pretty.”
UNE held a 19-18 halftime edge with both teams struggling mightily for some offense.
The Nor’easters got going in the second half and built their biggest lead of the evening 29-23 after Matt McManus made UNE’s only trey of the second half and Tom Button followed with a free throw and a jumper.
However, one thing you can count on is that no matter how many shots the Scots miss from long range they will not stop putting them up. And when they can connect on a few in a row their fortunes can change in a hurry. Ryan Smith clicked on two in a row and the Scots went ahead 32-30. Mark Oliver followed with a jumper over Alex Yeats but Jerry Logan answered with a 3-pointer and Gordon had a 35-32 lead with a little under 10 minutes remaining. They would never trail again.
A free throw by Ryan Smith increased the lead to 48-38 with 2 ½ minutes to go. “This game was so low scoring and competitive that when we got up by 10 it felt like it was over,” added coach Schauer. But it wasn’t.
The last 2 ½ minutes turned into a free throw exercise for Gordon. In fact for the last 4 minutes the only scoring Gordon did was from the free throw line. UNE’s fouling strategy doesn’t often work but it nearly did on this night.
The Scots made things interesting by missing six foul shots in a row in the last minute before making six in a row to gain the win. The Nor’easters got as close as 53-51 with 30 seconds left before Jerry Logan and Ryan Smith clinched it from the line.
Gordon’s 19 for 32 foul shooting was an eye-opener for those of us who saw them go 20 for 21 on Saturday in a win over Wentworth.
“When you shoot 15 for 47 (31.9%) from the field and still win it’s pretty amazing,” said coach Schauer. “We’re a team that relies on making shots. We’re usually in a lot of trouble on an off night.”
For the second straight game (20 points against Wentworth) freshman Jerry Logan was the difference maker. On this night he led all scorers with 17 points and the 6’1” guard also somehow pulled down 7 rebounds. “I said from the beginning that Jerry was going to be a good one,” said coach Schauer. “He seems to be at his best when he’s in charge on the floor.”
Another key contributor was sophomore Alex Yeats (11 points and 12 rebounds). “Few people are aware of how well he’s starting to play,” said coach Schauer. The key for Alex has been to stay out of foul trouble. When teams try and defend Gordon’s outside game it opens up a lot of opportunities inside for Alex.
Freshman Nick Farynaz had a strong game for UNE. He led the visitors with 15 points including 9 of 10 from the line.