By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) “I’d like to stop saying we’re losing to tough teams and become a tough team,” was how Gordon Coach Mike Schauer responded after seeing his squad drop a 74-64 contest to visiting Salem State (8-1) on Saturday evening at the Bennett Center.
But facts are facts and the Scots were 0-for-December (four losses) after winning all four games in November. Trying to snap a losing streak against the likes of Salem State (recently in the top 25 in D3 Hoops) was hoping for a lot.
“Our approach, which almost worked, was to shoot a lot of threes,” added Coach Schauer. Why? Inside stood 6’8” Ifesinachi Anosike (Senior – Staten Island NY). This guy is probably the most intimidating interior defender the Scots will face this season. He averaged 3 blocks a game last year and in this one he had six blocks. He also discouraged Gordon shooters from driving just by being there and altered a number of shots that were tried inside. One of the toughest shots of the night was a lay-up Jerry Logan (sophomore – Marietta GA) made over him that hit high on the backboard. Anoskike was one problem and add 6’9” Tyler Lang (sophomore – Franklin MA) and it was obvious that this game wouldn’t be won on the inside.
So what do you do? You go for points three at a time. I guarantee that anyone at the Bennett Center for this one came away asking, “How many did Mike get?” The “Mike” they’d be talking about was “Mike Herr (sophomore – Lampeter PA).” This guy was in the zone that we’ve seen former Gordon players like Scott Beebe, Ryan Smith, and Hayes Murray get in. When you go 9 for 18 from 3-point country and are getting special attention throughout you’ve had yourself a ballgame. Mike ended up with 33 points for the evening.
Unfortunately, while Mike Herr was in one zone his teammates were in another. An ugly 12 for 43 (27.9%) from the rest caused this one to slip away.
Salem State pressed throughout and forced 13 turnovers in the first half some of which led to easy baskets. In the second half the Scots did more passing and less dribbling against the press and the press stopped being a problem for them. “I thought about calling the press off as the second half progressed but I was hoping we could at least tire them out with it,” explained Viking Coach Sean Doherty afterwards.
Salem State wanted to get the ball inside. And with those two big guys, why not? Gordon used a zone the entire way and denied the inside as much as they were physically able. However, when the Vikings got the ball to Anoskike whistles were sure to blow. “There was some intention on our part in fouling the big guy,” admitted Coach Schauer. “We just couldn’t contain him” The “big guy” got to take 20 foul shots (had me thinking Hack-a-Shaq) and fortunately (for Gordon) he made only 11.
You could make a good argument for saying that Mike Herr was the best player on the floor but the best player usually is on the winning team. Therefore, I reluctantly pass over Ifesinachi Anosike ( 19 rebounds/17 points ) and go with Shawn Bloom (junior – Springfield MA).
What Shawn did from the outside, especially in the second half was a real killer. Interesting enough, Shawn didn’t start and was in the doghouse with the coach going into the game. “I took away his starting role after he was 0-for-8 in our last game (loss to UMass Boston),” said Coach Doherty. “He hasn’t been playing well and I thought he’d been thinking too much of himself.” Anyhow, off the bench came Shawn and after getting 7 in the first half he made Gordon pay for the zone defense by adding 16 in the second half.
To me the turning point was at the five-minute mark late in the second half. Justin Kaufman (freshman – Redding CT) made two free throws and Gordon was close, 57-54. Coach Schauer called a timeout but it seemed, to me, that the visitors benefited from it. They came out very deliberate, even holding the ball waiting for Gordon to come out of their zone, and on two straight possessions ended with three’s from Shawn Bloom. Thus, with 3:33 remaining the Scots went down by 9 (63-54). They didn’t recover.
Gordon started out like gangbusters. They raced off to an 8-0 lead after Jon Marstaller (freshman-Naples ME), and Mike Herr drained three’s and Scott Allenby (senior – Proctor VT) sent Jon in for a lay-up. But Salem State isn’t chopped liver. They’ve won or tied for their conference (MASCAC) for 14 years in a row. A Shawn Bloom trey tied things at 15 and the Vikings would push that lead to 30-21 with six minutes left. Aaron Goodwin (junior – Rockyhill CT) converted a rebound at the buzzer and Salem State was up 39-33 at the half.
Gordon wasn’t tough enough to win but in this one they hung around courageously. They regained the lead, 43-42, on a lay-up by Aaron Vogelzang (junior – Jericho VT) set up by Jerry Logan. Salem State regained the lead but another lay-up, this time by John Beebe (junior – Clive IA) from Nick Marino (freshman – Wellington FL), and the score was tied at 46 with 13 ½ to go. The game was still there for the taking when Jerry made the high-off-the-backboard lay-up to make it 54-52 with 7:15 to go. However, then Anosike converted on 3 of his next 4 foul shots and the next two times Salem State had the ball Shawn Bloom dialed long distance and connected.
The final score was 74-64.
“Gordon is well coached and they have a fine bunch of young kids,” said Coach Doherty after. “They’re already impressive and they’re going to be really good over the next couple of years.
“#44 (Mike Herr) was great. We tried a lot of players on him. We didn’t communicate very well on the screens they set for him. But he sure didn’t miss when he had the opportunity.”
To Coach Schauer the bottom line is disappointment. “We did some good things but it’s hollow.”
Salem State had four players in double figures: Shawn Bloom (23), Ifesinachi Anosike (17), Allen Reid (13), and Tyler Lang (10).
Gordon’s top scorers were Mike Herr (33) and Justin Kaufman (11).
Ahead for the Scots are exams, vacation, and back for practice on December 28th. Beyond that are nine games in January starting with Eastern Connecticut (away) January 3rd followed by appealing home games against Wheaton (January 6th) and Eastern Nazarene (January 8th). I’m thinking we’re in for a memorable January.
May we not lose sight of the importance of God sending His Son Jesus to be born on this earth.