By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) Gordon wasn’t expected to win this one and believe me they didn’t come close. Visiting Wheaton (Illinois) College toyed with the Fighting Scots from beginning to end and cruised to a 102 – 77 victory before a good turnout of Wheaton alums.
“Wheaton would probably be the best team in New England if they were from around here,” said Gordon Coach Mike Schauer afterwards. “They’ve beaten a lot of teams real good.”
Last time I looked Wheaton was ranked 12th in the nation by D3Hoops. They had defeated highly-regarded Williams College two nights ago at Williamstown. I was curious to see what makes them so good. I guess I was also hoping that maybe they’d be a little tired and the Scots might give them something to worry about.
Didn’t happen. Turns out that Gordon couldn’t defend Wheaton. It seemed as if every Thunder starter was a playmaker. They turned up 12 lay-ups in the first half alone. Gordon played mostly man-to-man and tried some zone. Didn’t matter. And when they couldn’t get a lay-up Wheaton had players draining 3’s.
I include a box score because I think you can learn plenty about a game from them. You almost never see shooting stats (64.3% for the game – 50% on 3-pointers) of this quality. These numbers were accumulated despite Wheaton Coach Bill Harris using every player he had in uniform plus pulling his starters for good with 10 minutes left!
I asked Coach Schauer what his team could take from a game like this. “We were able to get 77 points against them and shoot 46% for the game. Also we run an offense similar to theirs and this will give us a blueprint of how it should be done. They’ve been doing it a lot longer than we have and we’re at a different point of development.”
First two baskets for Wheaton were after nice feeds inside to 6’8” Jim Fortosis. Defending the inside was going to be a problem. The Scots hung around in a fashion because for some reason Jerry Logan (sophomore – Marietta GA) seemed to find open shot after open shot and Gordon trailed only 14-10 after 8 minutes.
Gordon was in a zone and Tom Bollier (junior – Leo IN) said “ Thanks” and drained two treys in a row to put Wheaton up 20 – 10. Defending the three was going to be a problem. The lead was pushed to 53-34 at halftime.
Thoughts that Wheaton might cool off were quickly dashed after the Thunder ran off seven straight to start the second half to move up 60 – 34. A little while later the Scots went into the dreaded cold spell of greater proportions – 4 minutes without scoring. When that was over and Coach Harris had pulled his starters the scoreboard read: Wheaton 82, Gordon 44. The last ten minutes were played despite their having no effect on the final outcome.
Jerry Logan played a courageous game for Gordon. He had 19 points in the first half and 5 assists in the second. Coach Schauer told me that Jerry’s performance was remarkable. “He learned this morning that his grandfather had died. I told him it was one of the most special things I’d ever seen a kid do when he put on a performance like that first half under these circumstances.” Our hearts and prayers go out to the Logan family.
One thing I liked a lot was to see the two teams in a circle after the game being led in prayer by Wheaton senior Jon Nielson (senior – Lookout Mountain GA). Shouldn’t that be a tradition after games with Christian schools? I’d like to be pleasantly surprised and see it happen after Saturday’s game with ENC.
Star of the Game – Jonathan Stevens (6’5” senior – Yorba Linda CA) – 3 for 4 in close/4 for 6 long range/3 for 3 from the foul line/4 steals. The lopsided score allowed him only 22 minutes. Imagine those numbers with another ten minutes!
Get Open/He’ll Find You – Jon Nielson – He collected an unusual double/double combining 11 assists with 11 points. He also defended Jerry Logan into zero points in the second half.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me – Pete Hassler – I watch him hit the front rim on two foul shots and question his shooting touch. He steps out deep and nails two 3’s!
Need a ride to the airport? – Mike Herr – Will be glad to see the last of the Wheaton defense. When Gordon’s top scorer goes 1-for-9 you know there was defense the likes of which he hadn’t seen before and will not see again this season.
So Gordon is now 5-5. Ahead is ENC on Saturday afternoon at the Bennett Center for a Commonwealth Coast Conference encounter. The Scots are 0-2 in the CCC and need to get a run started. ENC is struggling but these two teams generate excitement every time they play.
Wheaton is now 11-1. I pity the teams ahead they face. I think that those of us on hand tonight might have seen a team that could go far in the D3 playoffs.