By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) – You don’t always want the other team to have the ball in a tie game with six seconds left in regulation. The Scots got through it this time thanks to a last-second block by junior Jon Marstaller (Naples, ME) and went on to defeat the visiting Nichols Bison in overtime, 74-66, at the Bennett Center on Saturday afternoon.
Winning at home is almost mandatory in the run for the best record in the Commonwealth Coast Conference and home-court advantage in the CCC Playoffs. Gordon, Endicott, and Roger Williams remain tied at the top with two losses as all three teams won today.
Freshman Aaron Trigg (Overland Park, KS) had a season-high 20 points and he picked two important spots to get most of them.
The first batch (eight points) came with three minutes left in the first half and Gordon down, 28-22. A couple of 3’s by Aaron later the score was tied and after two successful free throws the Scots had a 30-28 halftime lead.
The next batch (five points) got Gordon off to a fast start in overtime. Opportunistic (lucky?) on the first possession in overtime Aaron ended up with an open look after a scramble for the ball and drained a long one.
“In the overtime in that first possession we played good D,” explained Nichols Coach Dave Sokolnicki afterwards. “The ball seemed to bounce off of about three legs to (Aaron) Trigg who buries a three. I said to my assistant –“You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t get any bounces around here.” No doubt Coach Sokonicki was reflecting back to a truly heart-breaking loss his team suffered at Gordon in the first round of last year’s CCC playoffs.
Aaron followed the three with a couple of free throws that boosted Gordon’s lead to, 67-62, 3 ½ minutes into overtime. As it turned out that gave the Scots enough to win because in crunch time they made free throws (5 in a row), and blocked shots (1 by Jon Marstaller and another by junior Justin Kaufman (Redding, CT).
“As always when we play Nichols it’s a tremendous game,” said Gordon Coach Mike Schauer later. “We’ve had a number of last possession games and I’m not sure I’d want to see them in the playoffs.”
“I’m not satisfied with the loss,” said Coach Sokolnicki, “but the way we played will win us games in the future.” The Bisons are now 8-9 overall and 3-6 in the CCC.
The Bison were out of the gate in a hurry. Freshman Bryan Riley sporting a 7 point per game average had six points on two old fashioned 3-point plays after only 1:20 had gone by. A little later while the Scots were turning the ball over twice and missing a three the visitors ran seven straight to get up 13-4 just four minutes into the game. The Bisons, in fact, went over six minutes before they finally missed a shot.
Aaron’s late-in-the-half point surge, though, gave the Scots the lead at halftime as Nichols cooled off completely and had no points during the last three minutes of the first half.
“At halftime I was surprised by the 10 turnovers we had,” recalled Coach Schauer. “Defensively Aaron had gotten beaten a couple of times at the start and I was pleased that he was the one who made the run before halftime.”
The second half was tightly played with six lead changes. It truly was anyone’s game.
The Scots built up a 5-point lead (62-57) with 3:40 remaining. Sometimes on the home court that can be enough. However, when you don’t score at all during the 3:40 remaining you run some risk of being overtaken.
Jon Marstaller was all over the final 3:40. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first – two missed three’s including an air ball, a foul on a shooter beyond the arc, and a traveling violation with six seconds left. The good news was two shot blocks in the last thirty seconds. That second block in the last second of Jeff Lindgren’s shot along the baseline was a game saver.
“We had a good look,” recalled Coach Sokolnicki of that crucial play. “He (Jon Marstaller) just made a great play.”
Minus Jon’s last-second block this game could have been lost. The 6’5’junior ended up with 20 points and five blocks.
“The last couple of weeks Jon has been as good as we’ve ever had him be,” said Coach Schauer. “He was great at Newbury. He’s asserting himself offensively. I think he’s the most difficult kid to defend in our league. He can play inside and outside and puts up consistent numbers every night.”
“This game was a character builder for us,” said Coach Sokolnicki. “To come in here and play them into overtime is special. We’re a young team.” The Bisons have three freshman (Chris Paquin, Ryan Wilcox, and Bryan Riley) getting significant minutes.
The best freshman on the floor in this one, however, was Aaron Trigg. “Aaron was sensational,” said Coach Schauer. “He’s been battling stuff and like most freshman he been pretty inconsistent. Today he was special.” Maybe it helped having his father on hand visiting from Kansas.
One of Aaron’s interesting stats was his 7-for-8 free throw shooting against Nichols. In the previous 17 games he had totaled 7-for-9 shooting free throws. Was this the first time he took his offense to the basket instead of settling for just open perimeter shots?
Senior Jerry Logan (Marietta,GA) turned in his usual strong defensive game. This time he kept track of talented Chris Vallee. The Bison junior still recorded 15 points but picked up 4 turnovers. When Jerry fouled out in overtime Justin Kaufman took over defensively. His block of Chris Vallee’s shot late in the overtime will probably be a topic for discussion in Connecticut long after this season is over.
Gordon is now 13-5 overall and 8-2 in the CCC. Tuesday they travel to play the University of New England at Biddeford, Maine. Word is that a Marstaller family reunion will be held at the game site. Expect an outburst of hysteria every time Jon does anything.
UNE is 4-6 in the CCC but, trust me, should not be taken lightly. They play well at home and have wins over Colby-Sawyer, Curry, and Salve Regina.
“We battled. That’s what CCC games are like this time of year. Records go out the window because we’re so familiar with each other.” – Coach Schauer…………….Freshman Tim MacDonnell (Jericho,VT) made the score sheet from the bench. I’m hearing his last name pronounced, MAC-dah-NELL. Speaking of pronunciation my wife learned from Brady’s grandmother this his last name is pronounced, bah- JEEM-ah…………………Sophomore Tim DeLuca is back getting minutes. Expect his instant offense to arrive any time now……………Justin Kaufman scored a layup in overtime that used almost all parts of the rim before falling through………………Senior Mike Herr (Lampeter,PA)played 33 minutes despite suffering from a calf injury he got against Newbury. Mike was much more vocal on the bench than I’ve ever seen him be. “I think that the reality is that you’re a senior and your career is starting to come to a close,” said Coach Schauer about Mike. “You don’t get to put that jersey on too many more times and you want to make the most of it. In another month you’re a YMCA player.”