By Peter McClelland
(Salem) – When the game turned to inside basketball in the second half Gordon (5-2) didn’t have enough answers to keep the Salem State Vikings (5-4) from defeating them 83-74 in non-league action at Salem on Saturday afternoon.
Gordon Coach Mike Schauer explained afterwards that the Scots recent games with Salem State have followed the same pattern. “We have trouble rebounding the ball. We have trouble guarding the post. We have to rely on making a lot of 3’s to even have a chance.”
The Scots had that 3-shot going in the first half and led 36-31. “They were 6-for-9 from 3-point land,” said Viking Coach Sean Doherty. “We talked about it plenty at half-time. I didn’t care about our offense because we can put up enough points. It was a matter of can we get stops. I also wanted to keep working the ball inside because I didn’t think that they could defend our inside players.”
The Vikings put together a terrific second half. They tallied 52 points and held the Scots to 38 points. I’m sure that Coach Schauer wouldn’t mind a 38-point half under most circumstances but against this team it just wasn’t enough.
“I figured that we would have issues keeping the ball away from the basket,” said Coach Schauer. “I thought that they started to expose us a little bit as Jon Marstaller and Mike Herr got fatigued defending the inside. They are not really post defenders. We need to recruit some.”
The Vikings seemed to have more than their share of that type of player. And these guys rarely forced shots and ended up with all sorts of lay-ups. They also took the Scots to school on the boards – 36-20. In fact, Salem State had more rebounds in the second half than Gordon had in the entire game.
“We didn’t have this much trouble with similar talented teams earlier in the season,” said Coach Schauer. “We’ve just got to be able to play bigger. It certainly didn’t help to have Mike Schnackenberg get into so much foul trouble (He fouled out with 7 minutes left).”
Early in the second half the Vikings ran seven straight and tied the score at 40-40. Later Justin Kaufman evened things at 46-46 with a pair of free throws at the 13-minute mark. Then it was Salem State on an 11-2 run going up 57-48. Gordon answered with an 8-1 spurt that featured treys by Justin Kaufman and Mark Beebe and a nifty spin move down the lane by Justin. So at 8:45 of the second half this one was still anyone’s game 58-56.
The next surge by Salem State was the game winner as it turned out. Right after Mike Schnackenberg fouled out the Viking inside game kicked into high gear. The gathering on hand either saw lay-ups or converted rebounds as Salem State jumped to a 10-point lead, 71-61 with 4 ½ minutes to go.
Gordon was not without its chances down the stretch but the 3-point shot deserted them completely. One was missed with the score 77-70, another with the score 80-74, and the last one when it was 81-74. “We had opportunities to win,” said Coach Schauer. “If we could have just knocked down a few more shots.”
But as former Red Sox manager Eddie Kasko used to say, “If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts we’d all have a fine Christmas.”
Joseph Walker (23) and Brandon McCombs (20) had big games for Salem State. Romeo, as everyone there called Joseph, is a transfer with an overpowering inside game. When he and another transfer (Eric Downie) were on the floor together you feared for the worst defensively if you were a Gordon fan. “Eric was a junior college All-American at Bunker Hill Community College and Romeo was a top player in Texas at Temple Junior College,” said Coach Doherty. First half fouls limited Eric’s minutes and points (13).
Those of you on hand were probably dazzled by the play of under-sized Viking guard Wilkins Victor. The stat folks had him with a very impressive nine assists!
Jerry Logan paced Gordon with 18 points and cut his turnovers to two. Jon Marstaller (12), Justin Kaufman (12), Michael Herr (11) and Aaron Vogelzang (10) all reached double figures for the Scots.
Now having won four in a row the Vikings face Southern Maine at home next Saturday.
Gordon is off until December 28th. They’ll leave for Atlanta on December 30th and play games down there on January 2nd and 4th.
That O’Keefe Center is huge. There was a high school hockey game going on in another part of the building……….I saw a student with a Salem State shirt on at the game wearing flip-flops. I couldn’t figure out whether he was a friend of John Kerry’s or if he didn’t realize there was snow and ice outside………If I recall correctly Joseph Walker is a friend of Celtic Kendrick Perkins and is staying with the Green’s big man…………I was surprised that Gordon didn’t try to use a zone to settle down their inside defense……..One of the prettiest baskets I’ve seen this year was when Gordon caught Salem State running around a bit on defense in the first half and passed up one nearly open shot after another before finding Mark Beebe wide open for a three which he drilled. A little while later Gordon showed similar patience and Mike Herr hit from long-range as the 35-second clock buzzer went off……Aaron Vogelzang is a designated defender…….Pete Hassler didn’t dress after picking up a mean-looking black eye in practice………”Laker Down” will only work if the opponent has never been to Naples, Maine………I waited for Coach Schauer to hand me a ticket to travel with the team to Georgia at the end of the month but it never happened so that means that I have to report that he picked up a technical foul even though the stat sheet omitted it……….I keep hoping that Gordon will sign up a Charles Barkley-sized big man someday. It just never seems to happen. Maybe, however, that will change when word gets out that next year the team will spend some of the Christmas break in Hawaii. That trip I might go on even if I’m not invited……..I’m expecting, weather-permitting to cover the team again when they get back from Georgia and face ENC at home……Merry Christmas – What a Gift We Have in Jesus!