(Game #22 – Nichols) Gordon Wins 14th in a Row……….Barely!

By Peter McClelland

(Dudley) – A week ago the Nichols Bison squandered a sizable lead to powerful Endicott and lost a heartbreaker, 58-56.  I’m not sure the loss Saturday afternoon to Gordon, 66-63, was any less painful.

But it was a win for the team you want to hear about and, coupled with an Endicott loss to Curry, gives the Scots a one game lead (12-1 to 11-2) in the race for the top spot in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.  Having that top spot when the regular season ends next Saturday would enable Gordon to play at the Bennett Center in any CCC tournament game they play in. 

In this one Gordon built up a ten-point halftime lead (39-29) thanks to come-backing Jerry Logan (6’ junior – Marietta GA) and then played maybe their worst half of the season to nearly let the game get away.

“The simple reality of it is that when you go on the road against a good team you’ve just got to gut it out,” explained Gordon Coach Mike Schauer afterwards.  “I’m as pleased with this win as many that we’ve had because we battled right to the end.”

Nichols (5-9 in CCC/8-14 overall) is almost impossible to figure out.  This is a team that nearly beat Endicott and Gordon and split with Roger Williams and Salve Regina.  On the other hand, though, they managed to lose to ENC and New England College.  It’s safe to say that they’re unpredictable.  Maybe it’s their roster – 2 seniors and the rest of them sophomores and freshmen. 

Whatever, this game did come down to the last 20 seconds.  The Bison had the ball trailing only, 64-61.  After a timeout sophomore Chris Vallee, defended by Aaron Vogelzang (6’4” senior – Jericho VT), launched a 3-point attempt.  It missed and Justin Kaufman (5’11” sophomore – Redding CT) corralled the rebound, got fouled and put the game away with two free throws.

This was a game with a fair amount of defensive intensity on both sides.  That meant that there was plenty of contact some of which escaped the vision of the gentlemen wearing stripes.  That didn’t always set well with the team that thought it was getting abused or their fans.  However, in tight games sometimes the difference between winning and losing can be the way a team reacts to calls against them or calls that aren’t made.

Bison Chris Vallee picked up a technical in the first half and Nichols Coach Dave Sololnicki got tagged for one in the second.  No big deal?  Consider that Aaron Vogelzang and Justin Kaufman sunk all four technical foul shots in a game that ended up with a 3-point difference.

I mentioned Jerry earlier.  He returned from a knee injury on February 2nd.  His game returned nine days later against Nichols.  He dropped in three of four 3’s he attempted in the first half and that had a lot to do with the, 39-29, advantage the Scots gained.

“One of the trademarks of this team has been that we have a lot of players who can contribute,” said Coach Schauer.  “Jerry was a big contributor in this one.  In previous years if we had certain players not playing well we’d be in trouble.  This season hasn’t been like that.”

That second half?  Do you really want to know?  Let’s let the numbers give you an idea.  The team shot 5 for 19 (26.3%) including 1 for 6 (16.7%) from 3-point land.  Then there’re 13 turnovers to consider as well as missing three of their last eight free throws.  And then imagine, if you can, ball-handler supreme Justin Kaufman getting his pocket picked in the backcourt with a resulting lay-up in the last 1 ½ minutes.  Okay, I’ll stop but you get the picture.

Fortunately, this Gordon team can play a sorry half on offense and still win thanks to its never-ending persistence on the defensive end.  Nichols was the better team in the second half but they never could mount enough offense to catch up and therefore went down to another tough loss.

Justin Lewis (21 points) and Chris Vallee (20 points) went wild for the Bison.  These sophomores could make Nichols a big-time CCC threat over the next two seasons.  Justin likes to bang on the inside while Chris likes to drive through traffic. 

Jon Marstaller (6’5” sophomore – Naples ME) gave the Scots a double/double (16 points – 10 points).  Teams that single cover him soon regret it.  His effectiveness in close opens up opportunities for others on the perimeter.

And by the way, that’s 14 straight wins and a record of 19-3 overall.  This is the team that refuses to lose.  Six more wins and the CCC championship is celebrated at the Bennett Center.

Gordon gets the University of New England on Tuesday evening at home.  This is a team that always plays Gordon tough no matter where the game is played.  After that it’s on the road with Wentworth on Thursday and home against Curry next Saturday.  Where has this season gone?

Nichols last two games are away first with ENC on Tuesday and then UNE on Saturday.

It’s beginning to look as if your Scots, with a good run this coming week, can finish with the top spot in the CCC North.  If that turns out to be true they would be facing the #4 seed in the CCC South in the opening round of the tournament at Gordon.  I’m not sure you want to hear this but that could quite easily be these same Nichols Bison. 

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Five players in the Gordon lineup played 83% of the total minutes.  Maybe they’ll find some rest against UNE and/or Wentworth……….The only games in which Gordon’s field goal percentage for a game was lower were in losses to Endicott and Salem State in December……………….It was Senior Day and the Nichols fans saluted Dave Berkland (who fouled out with 8 minutes left) and Casey Butler (one of the better players in the CCC)……………………The Gordon women nearly upset highly-regarded Nichols………….Nichols is another place where the person in charge of the music makes the mistaken assumption that you’ve come to listen to music rather than converse in a normal voice with those around you………………… I often think of God as the Great Embroiderer.  We see the underside and sometimes can’t see His handiwork.  Riding to this game I got a glimpse of His handiwork when I got a flat tire on Route 395.  I pulled off the next exit and parked in front of a tire business that was closed.  I went across the street to a Garden Center and they knew the name of a garage that could help.  They called the garage for me and I went back to my truck.  Someone from the garage showed up and replaced the tire.  Time from reaching the parking lot to driving away – 19 minutes! ……………………Mark Beebe will be seeing a doctor again for his foot.  I’d like to see him get back soon…………… The last three seasons have ended with opening round road losses in the CCC tournament.  That’s not going to happen this year…………….The only major run in this game was a ten-point one in which the Scots went from down, 9-5, to up, 15-9………………… The Scots played a lot more zone defense than I’m used to seeing.  Nichols struggled against it and it gave the Gordon defenders some rest.
 

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