By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) – Memorable game? You bet, for any number of reasons.
The bad news, though, is that Salem State defeated Gordon, 76-70, in overtime on Saturday afternoon at the heavily populated Bennett Center. This was Gordon’s first loss of the season.
Memorable? You put together the 3rd and 4th best teams in New England according to D3Hoops and you should see some good basketball. We did. We got a good look at one of the best players in New England – senior Eric Downie. He’s really a guard in a 6’5” body. Tireless Jerry Logan (6’1” senior) defended him into a 25 point game and believe me that’s not an insult. Eric missed 10 shots or could have had a 40 point game.
The Scots were without Coach Mike Schauer because he was in Arizona involved with family health issues. Assistant Coach Jeremy Martin took over without an assistant and had some of us wondering who would be running the team should he pick up a second technical foul in the second half. Thankfully it never got to that.
Then you have the popcorn machine in the concession stand in the lobby setting off the fire alarm in the first half and giving all of us a chance to grab some crisp outdoor air.
The toughest memory for the Gordon faithful, though, was the inability of the home team to hold onto a 3-point lead with six seconds left in regulation. Jerry Logan had just hit two clutch free throws to give Gordon that lead. After a Salem State timeout freshman Nick Tokarski found junior Alex Finn beyond the arc in front of Gordon’s Blue Sea. Up went the shot, the buzzer sounded and the shot was good. Overtime suddenly appeared on the afternoon menu.
“We did what we wanted in those last six seconds,” explained Coach Martin. “The kid just made a great shot. We forced them to go the full length of the court and Jerry (Logan) contested the shot.”
There was plenty of drama in the OT as well. With 1:27 left in overtime Justin Kaufman hit a pair of free throws to tie the score at 68-68. Anybody’s game but this time it was Salem State’s turn to grab a 3-point lead. The Vikings used most of the 35 second clock before junior Marquis Victor nailed the three that turned out to be the game-winner.
The Scots tried three 3’s of their own the rest of the way and came up empty each time. They were forced to foul to get the ball back and the Vikings put in 5-of-6 free throws to seal the win.
The Scots missed their last seven 3-point attempts which was a big surprise to this reporter. Make one of those and this game has a different ending.
The first half saw 7 lead changes. Gordon got up by six, 18-12 (9:55) and then went down by six, 29-23 (3:38) before running eight straight to lead, 31-29, at the half. Sophomore Tim DeLuca and senior Mike Herr both hit 3’s in the last minute. Mike’s was at the buzzer.
The Vikings never led in the second half. Five minutes into the second half a jam by Mike Herr and a 3 from the 1000-point scorer had Gordon ahead, 42-32. That lead shrunk to three (49-46) after a Dylan Holmes lay-up at 8:10 but the Scots recovered and junior Mike Schnackenberg’s old-fashioned three had Gordon leading, 57-48, with 3:51 left. Mike’s basket was the result of a nifty feed from junior Jon Marstaller against the Salem State zone.
On this day the Scots couldn’t close the deal in the last 3 ½ minutes. They came up pointless on five straight possessions while the visitors rallied for eight unanswered points. Down one (57-56) in the last minute Gordon escaped once on a Dylan Holmes travel. Jerry Logan’s two freebies seemed like enough until Alex Finn hit the long one at the end of regulation.
Both teams are now 6-1 and capable of a lot more wins before the season is over.
“We can’t let this loss start an emotional snowball,” said Coach Martin. “The last couple of years we’ve gone into the Christmas break on a losing streak. We need to have a good week of practice and be ready for Husson up in Bangor on Thursday night.”
The battle on the boards wasn’t a pretty sight despite Jon Marstaller pulling down 12. “The juniors and seniors haven’t lost a game when the rebound margin is nine or less,” explained Coach Martin. In this one the margin was 15. Even more surprising to me was seeing Gordon with only 9 total rebounds in the first half and they led at halftime!
Worried about CCC opponents Endicott and Colby-Sawyer? How about Roger Williams – they beat Salem State in November………Some were suggesting afterwards that Alex Finn’s 3-point shot at the end of regulation was actually a 2-point shot……………The Vikings were on a 5-point run before the fire alarm and continued for 4 more points afterwards…………”Disappointment after a loss like that is natural,” said Coach Martin. “If losing wasn’t bitter than winning wouldn’t be sweet.”………………After watching Philadelphia Biblical tie Gordon at the buzzer on a beyond half court shot several games ago I was less shocked by what Alex Finn did to the Scots……………Both teams used zones on occasion…………Eric Downie has scored at least 20 points in four of Salem State’s games……………Coach Sean Doherty is in his 4th season at Salem State. The team has been 73-18 under his leadership……………Junior Justin Kaufman did nothing to hurt his assist/turnover ratio picking up six more assists with just one turnover. That’s an amazing 29/5 for the season…………………Freshman Ben Gaskill has an injured ankle but will be back in uniform after the Christmas break……………I get bad vibes when I see Gordon players on the court complaining to the officials and gesturing about the officials. Shouldn’t on-court behavior reflect what’s really important to the team?……….Why is this article so late in getting done? I went to a nice Christmas concert in Ipswich after the game. True lateness will be the hour that the Husson game gets done at.