By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) – Gordon scored only 20 points in the entire second half but the last two of those points were by Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME) with 1.2 seconds left and they proved to be the difference in a hard-fought victory over Westfield State, 50-48, in the finals of the 4th annual Tip-Off Tournament. The game was played on Saturday evening at the Bennett Center.
The Scots (2-0) have won all eight games that they’ve played in the Tip-Off Tournament over the four years and have always had one of the team members chosen as MVP. This time around, it went to Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME). Interestingly, Jon won the same award two years ago when Gordon defeated this same Westfield State team.
“I’ll be glad to see him graduated,” joked Westfield State coach Rich Sutter afterwards.
The visiting Owls (1-1) will probably remember this game as one they let get away. “We were pretty fortunate to win,” explained Gordon coach Mike Schauer.
For the most part the shooting was way off for both teams. There was a trace of accurate shooting at the start of the game that led to the Owls building up a 14-4 advantage. “We were close to getting blown out early,” recalled Coach Schauer. “We were staggered but able to respond and make the game competitive.”
The visitors were still up by ten points (21-11) after Vinny Baker drilled the only 3-point shot that WSC would make in the entire game at the 7 ½ minute mark. The Scots came all the way back, however, and actually took the lead at halftime (30-29) after Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) used a nifty crossover dribble to sail in for a layup.
The second half showed what happens when two very tenacious defensive teams are at their best. Openings were few and heavily defended shots weren’t falling. Between them, the teams made 12 shots and missed 32. The Scots, in fact, took a 44-41 lead with 8 minutes left and didn’t score again for 5 ½ minutes but WSC had just a Dave Jaehnig layup to show for the same segment.
For much of the late-game, 5 ½ minute, point-scoring drought Jon Marstaller was parked on the bench with four fouls. When he returned he made a number of plays that turned the MVP Award in his direction. First there were a couple of steals but neither led to points. What led to points were inside moves to the basket which set up free throws (four) all of which he made. The free throws gave the Scots a 48-45 advantage with 1:45 left.
The Gordon defense then forced the Owls into a shot clock violation. However, not to be outdone defensively the Owls followed with a trap in the frontcourt and intercepted a pass. Off went the Owls on a fastbreak and Drew Pereira finished it with a layup to narrow things to 48-47 with 42 seconds to go. A missed Jon Marstaller three and a foul in the rebound effort put Brandon Mauer at the line with 11.3 seconds left. Brandon made the first to tie the score but, under heavy pressure from the nearby Blue Sea, missed the second with Jon Marstaller getting the rebound.
I thought that there would be a timeout. Coach Schauer explained why there wasn’t. “We had called a timeout before the free throws so we were set up for every situation. There was never a thought of running any sort of play because honestly they don’t work. So you just want a scrambled floor with guys trying to penetrate and kick and that’s exactly what happened.”
After Jon’s rebound Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT) took the ball up the sidelines in front of the Blue Sea. He passed to Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) who penetrated the Owl defense and found Mike Schnackenberg practically unguarded for the winning layup. “They made a very big play,” recalled Coach Sutter. “They broke us down defensively and dropped it off to the big guy inside.”
The Owls didn’t have enough time to even get off a shot in the closing 1.2 seconds. The presence of Ben Gaskill (sophomore-6′9″-Columbus OH) guarding the inbounder saw to that.
Dave Jaehnig led all scorers with 17 points while Ryan Mauer added 11. Their efforts earned them spots on the All-Tourney team.
Justin Kaufman’s 40-minute, tempo-controlling effort put him on the All-Tourney team as well.
In a game where every point was crucial the Scots can consider their free throw accuracy (17 for 20) to be significant. The visitors made just seven of 14.
Aaron Trigg had a remarkable game on defense. He took on the Owls top scorer (Ryan Mauer – 20 points in the first game) and held him to nine. Over the last 5 ½ minutes he took on Dave Jaehnig, who already had 17 points, and shut him out the rest of the way. “Aaron is really starting to progress as a player,” said Coach Schauer. “He’s going to be a special one.” Sounds like a guy, to me, who should have made the All-Tourney team.
Both Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL) and Ben Gaskill scored points inside and are tall enough to get almost any shot they want in close. As the line between getting the shots and making them shortens teams will have to defend them differently. They will require more than one-on-one defense in time.
In the second half Justin Kaufman set up Keith Krass (Senior-6′2″-Beach Park IL) for an open-look three from the right corner. Swish.
Next up for Gordon will be Wheelock on Tuesday evening at the Bennett Center. I’ll be spending next week in Connecticut and Pennsylvania with relatives so I’ll miss this one. I plan to be back to cover the away contest with MIT on the 27th.
We have so much to thank God for!