By Peter McClelland
(Beverly) Junior Todd Burton gave Endicott it’s only lead with ½ a second left calmly draining a free throw after bringing down the house with a last-hope three just before it.
Todd’s free throw gave the Gulls a 62-61 victory on Tuesday evening at the rocking Post Center in Commonwealth Coast Conference action.
The crowd was awesome on both sides and loud enough so that potential vocal troublemakers went unheard. The Blue Sea was out in force and Endicott Coach Chris Millette said afterwards “It sounded like we were at Gordon at first. Your fans were all there and ours were late arriving.”
Both teams are now tied at 10-3 in the CCC North. The important thing, and Gordon Coach Mike Schauer emphasized this afterwards, is that the Scots remain in the driver’s seat despite the loss. “There’s only one team that controls its own destiny and that’s Gordon College. The noise from this win may reverberate through the hallways here for years to come but if we win two more games they’ll probably have to come through us to win the championship.”
Gordon plays its last two games at home starting against Anna Maria on Thursday night and finishing with UNE on Saturday afternoon. Endicott travels to New England College Thursday night and finishes at home versus Salve Regina. If both Gordon & Endicott win both games then a tiebreaker kicks in to finalize the playoff seedings. The decider would then be the teams’ record against Colby-Sawyer. Gordon won both times and Endicott split. That would give the Scots home court throughout the CCC playoffs next week. Gordon would end up in a different bracket than Endicott and the only way they could face each other would be in the championship game. Now wouldn’t that be something!
The ending of this game was hectic and if you are a Gordon fan looking for a way to stay wide-awake for a while look at a video of the last six minutes of this one.
The Scots had owned the lead from the beginning as junior Jon Marstaller (Naples,ME) slid in for a layup in the first 12 seconds of the game. That lead grew to 13-4 on senior Jerry Logan’s drive to the basket and Gordon was in front at halftime, 28-24.
The second half saw that lead increase to 35-28 before the Gulls ran off seven straight and tied things when Todd Burton sank two free throws. That tie came with 13:46 left.
Over the next eight minutes of play Gordon discovered some long-range accuracy from freshman Brady Bajema (Whitinsville,MA) and junior Justin Kaufman (Redding,CT) while also getting points from senior Mike Herr (Lampeter,PA), junior Mike Schnackenberg(South Portland,ME) and Jon Marstaller. Before you knew it the Scots had themselves a nice 57-46 spread with 5:58 remaining.
Concerning that 11 point lead Coach Schauer said, “It’s kind of a weird time particularly as the road team because you stop being aggressive a little bit and I thought we did that and passed on a couple of open looks at the basket.”
The Endicott crowd and their players never conceded despite the deficit. Over the next 3+ minutes the Gulls ran nine in a row to close to 57-55 with 2:47 left. This ending was not going to be for the faint of heart and everyone knew it.
Justin Kaufman squirmed in for two (59-55) while Todd Burton made one of two free throws (59-56). After a Gordon miss freshman Graham Whitelaw knocked down a shot from the right corner that some thought was a three but the referees said was a two. Therefore, with 32 seconds left the Gulls trailed by just one.
Endicott went into full-court pressure but Justin Kaufman quickly found Brady Bajema alone on the wing down court and the freshman gave Gordon a 61-58 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
“We wanted to get the ball inside to Nemanja (Marinkovic) and if that’s not there then out to Gary (Corbett) for a three,” explained Coach Millette. What happened was none of the above. Nemanja reluctantly put up a three with about ten seconds to go. The ball went off the rim and headed for the corner. Jerry Logan tried to recover the ball but lost it out of bounds with 9.2 seconds left. “Last year you could call a timeout when you were going out-of-bounds and that would have happened this time but for the rule change,” said Coach Schauer.
Given yet another chance to tie the game but with no timeouts left Coach Millette recalls yelling, “Three, Three, Three. I was trying to tell them that we needed a three and they thought I wanted a three out-of-bounds play.” Needless to say, confusion was out in full bloom. A couple of Gulls handled the ball before Todd Burton appeared uncovered in the corner for an open three. Jon Marstaller rushed at Todd in an attempt to block the shot and drew a foul instead as the last second shot connected to tie the game.
Gordon took a timeout to give Todd a chance to think about the magnitude of the free throw he would take but it had no effect. Todd is 5th in the CCC in free throw percentage and didn’t miss.
The Endicott crowd mobbed the court and I suspect that the Blue Sea would have done the same thing if Gordon had hung on to win the game.
“Next year the league schedule will be set up so that we only play each team in the league once,” said Coach Millette. “However, Mike (Schauer) and I have already decided to play each other twice. It’s such a great rivalry.”
Coach Schauer suggested that, “getting drilled might have been better than losing the way we did. We’ve had a lot of nights like this year where we’ve done just enough to make it close and lost tough games – a couple in overtime and the Newbury game.”
This was the first competitive game I’ve seen Gordon play at Endicott. Starting in the 2002-03 season we’ve gone to Beverly and lost; 79-67, 76-62, 67-52, and 62-47. In each of those losses we trailed significantly at halftime including last year being behind 35-20. Point? This tight game tonight was a vast improvement over previous efforts and nothing to be ashamed of.
Todd Burton may have made the big shot but no question the best player in the game was senior Nemanja Marinkovic. He was a first-team all-conference player last year and he’ll be there this year too. He had 24 points including 16 in the second half this time around. The Scots have had trouble defending him in all eight of the games he’s faced them in. Graduate, would you!
The best news of the night in my opinion was the return of Justin Kaufman as a scoring contributor. Slowed down by injuries his scoring has suffered. All of a sudden in this one it all came back. He was looking for his shot and took the ball to the basket when there were opportunities. He also had five assists to go with 12 points. He hadn’t reached double-figures in the previous seven games.
I cannot say enough about the crowd. Every basket earned a thunderous ovation. Endicott’s last two baskets came from right in front of their most vocal supporters.
A telling stat for Gordon was that they only recorded three assists in the second half. That could indicate an overdose of one-on-one play………Freshman Ben Gaskill (Columbus,OH) saw some minutes in the first half and may be ready to provide some inside presence (he’s 6’9”) in the near future………”What I want to see is if our guys can persevere. There are a lot of chapters left to be written this year” – Coach Schauer………Both teams played very hard. “They say that the harder you work the luckier you get” – Coach Millette………Senior Mike Sullivan came in averaging 12.8 points per game but was limited to one point in this one………I continue to marvel at parents making long weekday trips to see their kids play basketball. I wonder if the kids appreciate the level of sacrifice involved.