By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) – This game came down to the last minute with the visiting University of New England needing a three to tie. They had two chances to do it but fortunately for Gordon they were unsuccessful and the Scots escaped with a, 71-66, win at the Bennett Center in Commonwealth Coast Conference action on Tuesday evening.
This makes win #20 and a run of wins that has now reached 15. The Scots have moved into unfamiliar territory with their rise to the top of the CCC North. “I think that we’re learning to play as the team wearing the bulls-eye,” said Gordon Coach Mike Schauer after the game. “We’ve never been THAT team before.”
The Scots are now 13-1 in the CCC North leading Endicott by a game. According to my figuring (always subject to error) with two games left (Wentworth & Curry) Gordon will get a home game in the first round of the CCC championship tournament no matter what happens the rest of the way because the worst they can finish is 2nd. However, if they can win one or both of those games they’ll be assured of playing at the Bennett Center in every round of the tournament they’re in. It may not seem that important now but if the team somehow ends up playing the neighbors in the finals they surely wouldn’t want to be playing them in Beverly.
Enough about the future let’s talk about this game. UNE was down, 60-48, with six minutes left after Mike Herr (6’ 5” junior – Lampeter PA) drained a three. This team had gone 4-10 over the last 14 games while Gordon was winning every one of them. Why would they still be interested in competing? But they were.
The Nor’easters went on an 11-2 run thanks to Issac Stickney’s pair of 3’s and they got far too close, 62-59, with a chance to tie with a minute left.
“I thought tonight was about how well UNE played,” said Coach Schauer. “They played great and had plenty of energy throughout the game. Their effort speaks well of their character and that of their coach (Jon Hayes). A lot of teams in their situation (3 wins in the CCC and 7-15 overall) wouldn’t have come here with the energy they did.” This was a team that wouldn’t go away.
UNE Coach Jon Hayes was impressed with Gordon for a couple of reasons. “The Gordon kids have a lot of confidence and they have made themselves better physically. Their commitment to the program has made it better. That’s what we need to do.”
Aaron Vogelzang (6’4” senior – Jericho VT) made all sorts of shots in the second half. “I thought Aaron was really special in this one,” said Coach Schauer. “He hit so many big shots. It really hurt us not to have him on the floor for much of the first half.”
Aaron ended up with 20 points (his high of the season) with 15 of them coming in the second half. He had a couple of offensive fouls in the first half and spent most of it on the bench. In that 15-point second half, though, he took little defenders inside on mismatches and found openings outside against slower big defenders.
Aaron is right up near the top in the CCC in field goal percentage. He didn’t hurt that position any with an 8-for-9 in this one. He has shot a sizzling (61 for 101 – 60%) during the 15-game winning streak.
Coach Schauer seems to be as happy with the effort of his team as he is with the wins that continue coming. “We just keep on battling each game. This one was similar to the Nichols game although we played better tonight. We’re not looking for style points in these games. We can’t come away disappointed with a win.”
That last minute was pretty nerve-wracking for those of us on hand. It got so exciting that some of the student body attending actually started to get involved. For the longest time they acted as if they had just come out of a 3-hour exam on “tell me all you know about………” That cheering section has to be able to do better against Curry on Saturday and in the CCC tournament next week. Rest elsewhere. The team needs your vocal encouragement throughout the games ahead.
UNE’s Mark Oliver (senior – Gloucester MA) did make a 3 with eleven seconds left to bring the visitors to, 67-66. However, Justin Kaufman (5’11” sophomore – Redding CT) was quickly fouled and connected on two free throws. Mark Regis (junior – Monroe NH) then misfired on a tying 3 that Jon Marstaller (6’5” sophomore – Naples ME) rebounded. Jon was immediately fouled and went to the other end to ice this one with two made free throws.
This game was as close as it was because UNE shot 3’s at the Bennett Center as if it was their home-court. A month ago in a, 57-46, loss at Biddeford they made two 3’s the entire game. In this one they had three 3’s in the first four minutes of the game. That road accuracy helped them run off 13 straight points and lead, 16-8, after eight minutes played.
One trademark of the Gordon team has been it’s insistence on getting high percentage shots. With only free throws, lay-ups and converted rebounds lighting up the scoreboard the Scots put a, 17-4, run together over a four-minute stretch and grabbed a, 27-22, advantage. They had a, 32-30, spread at halftime.
“At halftime I felt good,” explained Coach Schauer. “We had won the second half of the first half by ten points. I thought we’d be fine. UNE had to make so many shots in the second half to make it competitive and they did.”
Issac Stickney (6’6” sophomore – Rumford ME) was a gaudy 8-for-10 including four 3’s on his way to a game-high 23 points. “Issac is good at 3’s,” said Coach Hayes. “He usually shoots at least 30%.” He looked to me like a player that belonged on the CCC All-Star team.
UNE faces New England College at home on February 16th. That same night Gordon will be in Boston to play Wentworth.
Justin Kaufman (14) and Jon Marstaller (11) joined Aaron in double figures. Their best shooting was at the foul line where the young twosome combined for 13-for-14. What nerves?
Mike Herr is going to light some team up before this season is over. In this game it was accuracy (3-for-6) and a game-leading 10 rebounds.
UNE’s senior guards, Mark Oliver (14) and Matt McManus (12), joined Issac in double figures. Jerry Logan (6’ junior – Marietta GA) and Justin did a nice job of shadowing Matt (3rd leading scorer in the CCC) in this game.
Emily Sydow’s on hand and she doesn’t sing? Must be laryngitis……………………….Gordon had four starters play over 30 minutes. An early blowout at Wentworth could get them some rest………………….It’ll be Senior Night at Wentworth on Thursday. Teams play a bit differently in that atmosphere. We saw that at Nichols. We’ll see it on Saturday at the Bennett Center………………….Mark Beebe was back in uniform after missing four games. It would be nice to see his 3-point shot get game-heated as the regular season winds down………………The first year (2002-03) Coach Schauer was here the team went 20-5. So far this year’s team is rolling along at 20-3…………..UNE’s biggest win of the season was beating Curry at Curry. “We defended well but it certainly helped us that one of their best players didn’t play,” explained Coach Hayes………………There must have been a draft down the corridor end of the gym because I saw a couple of pretty good players for each team toss up air balls – one from the foul line and another from the corner……………….The Scots ran my favorite play (backdoor cut) a number of times for Aaron for a couple of baskets……………..Gordon scored all their points (11) on free throws in the last six minutes………………….Those 66 points scored by UNE are well above the 52.8 points per game average that Gordon has been allowing during The Streak.