By Peter McClelland
(Newport RI) – What a difference a week makes! Last week, just up the road in Bristol, the Scots were devoured by Roger Williams, 77-66, in a shockingly poor performance. Was that a one-game downer or was the team over-rated?
In three games since that disaster (Colby-Sawyer/New England/Salve Regina) Gordon has played consistently good. Their shooting has had its ups-and-downs like today but the willingness to guard people down one end and be unselfish down the other is back in full force.
Against Salve Regina the Scots turned an “anyone’s ballgame,” up 40-38 with 9:41 left in the second half, into a commanding 55-40 margin five minutes later. That surge spelled the difference as Gordon defeated the Seahawks 68-52 on Saturday afternoon in Newport in Commonwealth Coast Conference play.
The Scots now have their winning streak up to three and are 10-3 overall. Their CCC record is 5-1. Ahead for them is Wentworth in Boston on Thursday evening.
Gordon’s defense was stifling throughout against Salve Regina. The offense took a while to find its way.
“I was so pleased really early with our effort,” said Gordon Coach Mike Schauer afterwards. “I could tell that we had come to play really hard and generally speaking if we do that we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Those on hand could see the effort, especially on the perimeter but oh the foul shooting in the first half. The Scots were a shocking 5-for-14 from the charity stripe but, as one of the player’s parents surmised, they still led 26-24 at the half.
How did they do it? I’m going to go with #4 from Whitinsville, Massachusetts – freshman Brady Bajema. Brady was part of a 6-point run setting up junior Mike Schnackenberg (South Portland, ME) for a lay-up that brought the Scots back from their biggest deficit (14-9) of the game. Later in the half Brady ran eight straight points all by himself including two 3’s as Gordon came back from yet another deficit and grabbed the lead for good (26-22) just before halftime.
“I thought in the first half that our defense was pretty good except for the open looks that (Brady) Bajema got,” said Seahawk Coach Sean Foster. “We tried at halftime to make some adjustments offensively but it didn’t help.”
Senior Matt Grendal was awesome for Salve getting 22 points for the game along with 15 rebounds. I asked Coach Foster if this was an unusually good game for Matt and he replied, “He plays with the same effort every night. I have really been able to count on him for four years to play hard and rebound. Tonight he hit a lot of tough shots.”
Unfortunately, for the Seahawks the rest of the team didn’t have many positive scoring numbers. “We wanted to establish Matt Grendal down low early and hope to open up perimeter shots,” explained Coach Foster.
The first part certainly happened but the second part was thwarted by excellent Gordon perimeter defense led by senior Jerry Logan (Marietta, GA), junior Justin Kaufman (Redding, CT), and freshman Aaron Trigg (Overland Park, KS). This hard-working trio defended the perimeter all game and forced nine turnovers out there and still only committed one foul between them.
“Our perimeter guys didn’t hit shots and weren’t aggressive enough offensively but that had a lot to do with Gordon’s defense,” said Coach Foster.
Despite the way Gordon was playing defense they still needed to heat up in the second half to win the game. And that they did.
Junior Jon Marstaller (Naples,ME) hit a three and the Seahawks missed one. Then Jerry Logan hit a three that used most of the rim before going in. A timeout by Salve was followed by a successful jumper along the baseline by junior Chris Goodridge. His jumper made the score 46-40 but there was more Gordon offense to come.
The next nine points were Gordon’s and a close game quickly got out of reach, 55-40, with only 4:41 to go. A couple of the baskets in that run were conversions of offensive rebounds by Justin Kaufman and senior Mike Herr (Lampeter, PA). Believe me; offensive rebounds are rare for the team last in the CCC in that category. In fact, Mike Herr didn’t even get credit for his offensive rebound. The other five points came from another Jerry Logan trey and a lay-up by Mike Schackenberg set up by Jon Marstaller.
“They made a great run,” said Coach Foster. “We knew that they were struggling a bit in the first half with their shooting. Because they have been so consistent shooting I suspected that they would come around before it was over.”
This was not a day in which the Seahawks had the weapons to come back from a sizable deficit and Gordon won 68-51.
Salve is now 7-5 overall and 2-2 in the CCC. They don’t play again until next Saturday when they face an underachieving but always dangerous Nichols College in Newport.
Aaron Trigg continues to struggle with his shooting but his three steals tells you a little about the type of defense he’s been playing lately………………Coach Schauer put his best defender (Jerry Logan) on 3-point specialist sophomore Justin Woodworth out of respect for his outside game…………………Coach Schauer joked afterwards that he called a play for hot-shooting Brady Bajema “and he wouldn’t even shoot the ball.”…………………The Scots will get Monday off after having played four games in eight days……………Unwittingly I have seen most of Newport – part of it trying to find the gymnasium two years ago and the rest tonight trying to find my way out………………Playing games in January without the home team’s student body in session leaves a lot to be desired. Why do college students need a month-long break?