By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) They really should have charged two admissions because what we saw were two games. In Game One the visiting University of New England Nor’easters had everything their own way. How does 40-21 at the half sound? In Game Two the home team, your Gordon College Fighting Scots, defended with a passion and started to make shots. Gordon won that half 49-26. If you’re a math whiz you’ve added things up and realized that Gordon won 70-66.
That’s why box scores are so deceiving. If all you had is the final score you wouldn’t have realized the magnitude of the comeback that took place. I mean Ralph Nader’s chances in the election looked better than the Scots of turning this one around after that first half!
Anyhow, the win at the Bennett Center on Saturday afternoon gives Gordon its second Commonwealth Coast Conference victory. They are now 2-3 in the CCC and 7-6 overall. The unfortunate Nor’easters remain winless (0-4) in the CCC and 4-7 overall.
UNE really surprised me. In their last three games they had lost by an average of 24 points and their Coach (Jon Hayes) had informed me that some of his players had been sick and practice had been affected by it. Meanwhile, Gordon was coming off a Colby-Sawyer loss in which they played as if they belonged among the elite in the CCC. So, I’m thinking a bit of a mismatch.
And Gordon did get off to a nice start. Jon Marstaller (freshman – Naples ME) clicked from inside and out and Mike Herr (sophomore – Lampeter PA) hit a three and the Scots led 7-4. At this point UNE Coach Hayes took serious offense to a non-call against Jerry Logan. From my vantage point it looked as if his defender had been pushed back. But there was no call. Coach Hayes picked up a technical not for what he said but because he tried to toss his jacket to me and I was in the back row of the bleachers! The refs were not nearly as amused as some of the rest of us were. Mike Herr sank both technical foul shots. Now it’s 9-4 with 17:50 left.
Those thinking Gordon would go on a roll were sadly mistaken. The Scots went into 13 minutes of their most unsuccessful basketball of the season. Meanwhile, the Nor’easters were unstoppable. They tallied 25 points while the Scots struggled to get a measly 5 points (all from Mike Herr) and UNE was in front 29-14 with 4:50 until halftime. The killer for UNE was Matt McManus. The 6’1” junior from Cumberland RI hit from just about anywhere he was and got 13 in this spurt and a total of 20 for the half.
“No question, (Matt) McManus is a great player,” said Coach Schauer. “He’s an all-conference player and he’s gotten 30 on teams in this league. We have such young players that they don’t understand how good other players are sometimes.” There are times when a good player “feels it” and that’s what happened with Matt McManus in the first half. UNE led 40-21 at the break.
Gordon dominated the second half. They were out early at halftime and the improved shooting showed early. “The only adjustment was to put our best defender (Jerry Logan) on (Matt) McManus and hope that he could contain him a bit,” said Coach Schauer.
“Gordon was more aggressive than we were in the second half,” explained Coach Hayes. “They’re a good defensive team. They also were very good passing the ball and making the defense work. They’re as good a motion team as there is in this league.”
“The thing that made the difference was that we came out fast and cut that 19-point lead significantly right away,” said Coach Schauer. It wasn’t three minutes before Mike Herr’s 3-point play made the score 42-32. Later (12:20) an Aaron Vogelzang (junior – Jericho VT) three narrowed things to 49-43 and Jon Marstaller’s two lay-ins made things even closer 51-47.
But credit UNE. This is a team that has been sick this week and has had organizational issues because players have left the team. They ran off seven straight thanks to the inside work of Mark Oliver (Gloucester MA) and Mark Regis. The Nor’easters were now ahead 58-47 with nine minutes to go. “When we got it to four and then they took it back up again I started thinking that we’d had a great run but it wasn’t going to be enough,” admitted Coach Schauer. “But we just kept playing.”
And play they did. They ran off their own seven straight (a Mike Herr trey was part of it) and it was 58-54 with 6:15 left. Later, an unlikely three from Jon Marstaller and two free throws from the same player and Gordon finally had the lead 63-62 with 2 ½ remaining. Leave it to the plucky Nor’easters to answer with a drive by Nick Farynaz and get that lead back. And leave it to Jon Marstaller to get two more free throws and Gordon led 65-64 with two minutes to go. This was still anyone’s game.
Mark Oliver missed a lay-up heavily guarded by Aaron Vogelzang. Jerry Logan missed a three down the other end. Nick Farynaz did the same for UNE. Gordon called time with :52 left. Here’s where that patience on offense paid off. They ran off over 20 seconds before Jerry Logan hit an ice-water-in-his-veins three that turned out to be the game-winner putting the Scots further ahead 68-64. UNE could not catch up.
Coach Schauer has been quick to declare Jerry his best defender (Matt McManus had just four points in the second half) but in this game he came up big on offense too. If he had missed that three the Nor’easters would have had nearly 30 seconds to overcome a one-point deficit. That would have been a very dangerous position for the Scots to be in.
Gordon is now off for a week before taking on tall (6’8” and 6’11”) and talented Roger Williams. Last time we saw them they were dedicating a new gymnasium while bouncing us from the CCC playoffs.
UNE is a very guard-oriented team but that didn’t stop sophomore Tom Button (6’6” – Lyndeborough NH) from having a nice double/double (15 rebounds/14 points) in close to the basket.
Aaron Vogelzang continued with his shooting highlights. Against Colby-Sawyer he was 5-for-5 from the field. In this one he was 2-for-2 from long range and 8-for-8 from the foul line. You add three blocks to his 14 points and you can see that he had himself a ballgame!
The student body was back in force and I think they had a hand in carrying the Scots to the comeback win.
Some of Matt McManus’ three’s were from NBA range.
UNE Coach Hayes should have known it wasn’t his day when he got the officials attention and got a timeout just before Matt McManus let fly a successful three.