By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) It was like watching Tom Brady.
Endicott College found ways to win a game in crunch time and defeated Gordon College 73-70 before a large crowd of enthusiastic witnesses at the Bennett Center on Tuesday evening in Commonwealth Coast Conference play.
This one was tied at 70 with two minutes left. “I liked our chances down the stretch because we’ve already been in some close games and we have veteran players,” said Endicott coach Mike Plansky afterwards. “Gordon has a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”
While the Gordon youngsters misfired on three shots and got assessed an offensive foul the visiting Gulls showed patience and a nice pass from Nemanja Marinkovic put James Leveque in a position to tally the decisive lay-up.
Gordon coach Mike Schauer wouldn’t take anything away from Endicott. “They’re tough but I think we’re every bit as good as them and maybe a year away from being better. My job is to continue to get players in here like our freshmen and sophomores so that we can keep going forward. That’s not to say that I don’t like our juniors and seniors it’s just that the freshmen and sophomores are more gifted offensively.”
It was essential that the Scots contain sophomore 6’4” Nemanja Marinkovic in this one. After 28 points/20 rebounds in the first meeting last season and 23 points/13 rebounds in the second you cringed wondering what this year would bring. Well, in Meeting 3 he “only” had 23 points but he still contributed to the Gull win when his pass in the last minute resulted in the winning basket. “We did better on him but he still hurt us a lot,” added Coach Schauer.
When Nemanja scored Endicott’s first eight points in the first four minutes you thought 20+ point half might be on the horizon. “We seemed to get a little impatient after that,” said Coach Plansky. “We might not get him the ball on the first pass but if we’d continued to pass the ball he’d end up with it in close. We just lost our patience.”
Gordon had a 9-8 lead after five minutes and then switched away from a man-to-man defense into a zone. Matt George said “thanks” and lit that thing up with three straight treys as the Gulls pulled away 26-15 six minutes later.
You wondered if this one might get away from Gordon early but over the next five minutes Endicott’s shooting went south and the Scots went on an 18-2 tear. Two treys by Justin Kaufman (FR-Redding CT) and one each by Andrew Swenson (SR-Manchester CT) and Aaron Vogelzang (JR-Jericho VT) ignited this rally.
Down now 33-28 Endicott answered with eight straight featuring the driving and passing skills of Gull senior Josh Oxton. This kid showed more fancy moves than should be legally allowed!
The half ended at 36 after a Justin Kaufman free throw and a Nick Marino (FR-Wellington FL) pass turned up a lay-up for Jon Marstaller (FR-Naples ME).
A run of points by Jon Marstaller in the first five minutes of the second half had Gordon up 48-43 but you were quite sure that Endicott wasn’t going to go away. Before you knew it a Gordon turnover led to a Matt George slam and Endicott had their fans hopping and the lead back. The teams traded mini-runs and the score was knotted at 59 with 9 ½ minutes left.
The next 7 ½ minutes amazed me as I looked at my scripting of that part of the game afterwards. Six different times Endicott took a 2-point or 1-point lead only to have Gordon come back to tie it. Jerry Logan (SO-Marietta GA) and Mike Herr (SO-Lampeter PA) carried the Scots early in this section and Jon Marstaller was the go-to guy late.
“Despite what happened in the last two minutes (Gordon missed all three shots) I still have confidence in our shooters,” said Coach Schauer. “We wanted to get the ball inside to (Jon) Marstaller but their defense wouldn’t allow it. Justin (Kaufman) had a pretty good look at the end, that would have tied the game, but it just didn’t go down.”
Star of the Game? Had to be Jon Marstaller. He registered a double/double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also played long minutes (35) because Michael Schnackenberg (FR- South Portland ME) and Scott Allenby (SR-Proctor VT) got into foul trouble.
Nemanja Marinkovic was the rookie-of-the-year in the CCC last year. Jon could make a run for that award this time around.
Endicott improves to 3-2 overall and are now 1-0 in the CCC. Gordon is 4-3 and 0-2 in the CCC. Endicott gets WPI on Thursday while the Scots face undefeated Salem State on Saturday night at the Bennett Center.
Top scorers for Endicott were: Nemanja Marinkovic (23), Matt George (17), Zach Ellis (13) and Josh Oxton (11).
Pacing Gordon was: Jon Marstaller (18), Justin Kaufman & Jerry Logan (16) and Mike Herr (11).
“This is a tough place to play,” said Coach Plansky. “The crowd gets into it and we had some of our fans on hand. I would anticipate the same level of excitement when we meet again in February at Endicott.”