(Wenham) – The Gordon College Fighting Scots started the new year off in fine fashion with an 87-82 nonconference win over Northwestern College on Tuesday night at the Bennett Center.
Don’t let the final score fool you. The Scots had an 80-63 advantage with 4 ½ minutes left. The visitors narrowed this one to a two-possession game in the last minute with some hot shooting but the double-digit deficit was too much to overcome.
This game was played in front of close friends and family as the Gordon students are away until January 16th. There were plenty of good seats available in fact the Blue Sea (of Gordon students) was down to the puddle level. Next home game is January 9th (Tuesday) against Colby-Sawyer. Invite a friend!
Gordon unveiled a new approach in this one. Gone, but not forgotten, is the idea that defense wins games. “We have a lot of kids who can score,” explained Gordon Coach Mike Schauer. “We’ve decided to up the tempo a little bit and worry less about points per game defensively. We want to see if for 40 minutes teams can stop us enough times to beat us.”
Well, I can tell you after seeing one game of that style that teams ahead are going to see a steady dose of long-range shooting (the Scots put up 26 three’s) from just about anyone on the floor. Once teams start getting hurt by Gordon’s outside shooting they have to come out away from the basket to defend. This opens up the inside for junior Jon Marstaller (Naples, ME).
Against Northwestern we saw what happens when last year’s first team CCC player gets the ball inside with only one defender – 23 points including 15 in the second half.
Meanwhile, out beyond the arc freshman Aaron Trigg (Overland Park,KS) was 6-for-7 collecting 18 points and turning in his highest point total of the season.
The player who had the game of his young Gordon career was freshman Brady Bajema (Whitinsville, MA). Brady was forced into some extended minutes because sophomore Tim DeLuca (Gray,ME) is still recovering from an ankle injury. He sure took advantage of the opportunity. He opened my eyes when he used a behind-the-back dribble to leave an Eagle defender in the dust on his way to a successful lay-up. Maybe even more important was that in 13 minutes he had no turnovers and didn’t look out of place.
“Brady has played like that in practice since we came back (on December 28th),” explained Coach Schauer. “I told Coach Martin that we finally saw the Brady Bajema we recruited. He’s a very cerebral player and can play at this level.”
This game was extremely important because it was stuck in between a perfectly horrible performance in Bangor against Husson on December 14th and a date this coming Saturday with highly-regarded Roger Williams on the road. “I worried about our focus,” said Coach Schauer, “but I thought we played great.”
Gordon (7-2) now starts a run of seven Commonwealth Coast Conference games.
Northwestern (9-2) had its eight-game winning streak snapped. Life won’t get any easier for them as they travel to Keene State (only one loss) on Thursday before heading back to Minnesota.
“Northwestern is better than anyone is going to believe,” explained Coach Schauer. “They are very good offensively and have already beaten three teams in the MIAC which is the premiere D3 conference in Minnesota.”
For most of the first half this game was tight. The Eagles grabbed a 32-31 lead after two Josh Krehbiel free throws with 3 ½ minutes left.
However, over the next seven minutes stretching into the second half the Scots went on a 16-2 run that put them in control. Three’s from senior Mike Herr (Lampeter,PA), Aaron Trigg, and Jon Marstaller were part of the run. Jon had a hand in the rest of it as well. He made a couple of free throws, had a steal and sent junior Justin Kaufman (Redding, CT) in for a lay-up, and made a 3-point play the old-fashioned way.
Now down 47-34 a lesser team might have settled in for the suspected coming blowout. Not the Eagles. They continued to take good shots and before you knew it they were within six (62-56) with nine minutes left.
That put this one into the “anyone’s game” category. But the Gordon attack was relentless. Missing a few shots didn’t discourage them from continuing to work very hard on offense. The result was another point surge (18-7 over the next 4 ½ minutes) and an 80-63 advantage that the visitors couldn’t overcome in the 4 ½ minutes left.
Justin Kaufman and Aaron Trigg had 3’s in this game-deciding run. Brady Bajema, Mike Schnackenberg (South Portland, ME), and Jon Marstaller also added points.
The Eagles had six players in double figures. Junior Daniel Hanson had a double/double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Justin Kaufman and senior Jerry Logan (Marietta, GA) reached double figures but it was a struggle as they were a combined 6-for-23. They didn’t have a whole lot of luck making lay-ups in traffic. However, there are other stats to look at and there on the sheet you can see Jerry leading all Gordon rebounders with eight and Justin handing out an impressive eight assists.
What should you think when the high scorer in the game can’t find the rim on a free throw?…….”I don’t think that we could have beaten Northwestern if we had played deliberately,” – Coach Schauer…….The teams gathered at center-court afterwards for prayer…….Evangelist Billy Graham served as President of Northwestern for a time and also was a trustee at Gordon…….Colby-Sawyer coach Bill Foti was on hand taking notes for his team’s visit to Gordon next Tuesday. Last time the Scots faced Colby-Sawyer was in that lop-sided CCC playoff loss last season……How did we manage to get through halftime without being “entertained?”