By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) –The Gordon College men’s basketball team once again captured its own Tip-Off Tournament defeating the Westfield State Owls, 70-58, at the Bennett Center on Saturday night.
Gordon’s Jon Marstaller (soph-Naples ME) came away with the MVP trophy and no one in attendance would suggest it didn’t belong to him. Most of the night he overwhelmed the Owls interior defense. He finished with 23 points and also collected 11 rebounds.
Westfield coach Rich Sutter didn’t think he could have his team sag in to help defend Jon. “Defensively we didn’t want to get caught in too many help-and-recover situations because their shooters in the corners will kill you.”
Gordon coach Mike Schauer marveled at this game for a couple of reasons. “This was as intense a game as I have been part of since I’ve been here. These were two teams that refused to back down. The other thing worth mentioning is the spirit of the game. Both teams played as hard as they could yet helped one another up. Westfield State has good kids and is well-coached.”
There’s no doubt that fatigue was a key factor. The Owls were forced to use their starters for long minutes to hold off Southern Maine on Friday night. Meanwhile Gordon was able to spread minutes among ten players as they built up a big second half lead over Framingham State in their first game.
The Owls wanted to run but the Scots knew it and were back fast most of the time. Westfield was forced into a half-court game that was not to their preference. In that type of game the Owls ran up against Gordon’s best defender (Jerry Logan) and a much improved defender (Justin Kaufman). They harassed the Westfield guards into a combined 3-for-21 shooting night.
“Justin (Kaufman) made the all-tournament team because of his defense,” explained Coach Schauer. “He has bought into what he needs to do for us to be a good team.” Justin shut down Owl playmaker Gavin Illangakoon completely in the second half.
In the Framingham State win the Scots put together a nifty 17-point run in the second half to put that game in the win column. In this one the spurt that spelled victory was a bit more concealed. Let me explain. Mike Jurkowski’s lay-up with 4:20 left in the first half gave the visitors a 22-20 lead. Over the next six minutes of playing time going into the second half the Scots piled up a 20-4 advantage and pushed ahead, 40-26. The Owls weren’t able to break inside the double-digit deficit until the last two minutes of the game (62-54) but then Gordon’s accurate foul-shooting kicked in to seal the win.
The beauty of that 20-4 spurt was that except for Justin Kaufman’s trey everything scored was from the foul line or from some sort of lay-up. And this just wasn’t Jon Marstaller in close. Nick Marino, Mike Herr and Mike Schnackenberg all cashed in around the hoop. Gordon seems to have the personnel to come at teams with size, size, and more size.
Coach Sutter was impressed with the Gordon fans. “This was an electric crowd. They sure were behind their team.”
If Jon Marstaller was the MVP then the Owls Mike Jurkowski was runner-up in my opinion. The Westfield senior turned in a double-double (22 points/11 rebounds) and played more minutes than anyone else. James Ogbunize and Curtis Gadles also added double-digit points for the Owls.
So Gordon is off to the fast start with two wins. Last year they got off to the same sweet start by winning the first Tip-Off Tournament. Now the Scots take their show on the road to distant Johnson State (Vermont) on Tuesday evening. For the first two games Gordon has looked inside first for their offense. Will that continue? I’m hoping to take the trip to ski country to find out.
Saluting the crowd afterwards, as the Gordon players did, is always a good idea. Remember those kids could be back in their dorms studying!…….Mike Schnackenberg closed out the 20-4 spurt with a nifty lay-up after a feed from Justin Kaufman…..Jerry Logan had the good sense to draw fouls after his outside game deserted him. He can make a foul shot, even nine if given the opportunity…….Mike Herr has not been called on yet to provide the 16 points per game he contributed last year. That’s how good Gordon’s inside game has been in the first two games……..I saw former hoopsters, Scott Allenby, Andrew Swenson, and Scott Beebe in the house.