By Peter McClelland
(Salem) “We were able to make plays when we needed to,” was the way Salem State Coach Chris Harvey explained his team’s, 75-65, win over Gordon Saturday afternoon in non-conference action. And you had to agree because this was a 3-point game (66-63) with 1:19 left.
The Scots needed a stop but instead were victimized by Stevie Celestin. It was bad enough that he clearly beat his defender but to make matters worse the rest of the Gordon defense was nowhere to be seen. So the junior transfer from Lasell ended up with a pregame layup drill kind of layup.
The easy basket put Gordon down by five (68-63) and instead of responding with points the Scots committed their 17th turnover. A quick foul of Stevie Celestin followed. He made the first, and to show you how downhill things got, missed the second and somehow, at 6’, was able to pull down the Vikings 20th offensive rebound. The rest of the way Salem State nailed all six free throws while Gordon has just a layup from Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME).
By the way, the boxscore is incorrect. The final score was 75-65 and Mike Schnackenberg actually had 18 points instead of 16.
Gordon Coach Mike Schauer was steaming even before this game was done……….and as far as I could tell it wasn’t at the referees or his team. Planted across from the Gordon bench was a spectator who rode the Gordon team relentlessly from beginning to end. This unseemly representation of a Salem State student crossed the line verbally into poor taste any number of times. Why he was allowed to continue reflects poorly on whomever from Salem State was supervising the game because numerous complaints were given about him along the way. Anyhow, this young man’s boorish behavior riled up Coach Schauer and, essentially, kept me from discussing the game with him afterwards.
I suspect that he was unhappy with the defensive lapse in crunch time but throughout most of the rest of the game, the Scots defensive effort was commendable. Salem State (7-1) is strong, fast, and physical. They came in averaging nearly 90 points a game. With two minutes to go, they had 66 points.
“Gordon was the first team we have faced that played a completely different style than we wanted to allow them to play,” explained Coach Harvey. “We were trying to make them play quicker and they wouldn’t do it.” If time of possession had been kept, it is quite likely that Gordon had possession for several more minutes than the Vikings.
Time of possession is nice but Salem State’s excellence on the boards more than made up for less time with the ball. Their 20 offensive rebounds extended possessions, in fact, the Vikings last four baskets each came after an offensive rebound. The last one was the killer because a rebound for Gordon would have given them the ball down only three. Instead, the Vikings got a rebound, a timeout, and a Stevie Celestine layup.
“On that play after the timeout we got him the ball and asked him to do something with it and he did,” said Coach Harvey. “Stevie is normally a shooting guard but we’ve had him play the point because our point guard has a knee injury. It has taken away his opportunities to score.”
If either team had been able to shoot 3’s accurately, they would have won going away. Consider that combined the teams were 3-for-29! As you can see, it wasn’t for lack of attempts. And it wasn’t for lack of open looks. Therefore much of the scoring came from in close and there were plenty of easy ones missed in there as well. There were shot-blockers lurking on both sides and that surely had something to do with some of the surprising misfires.
Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME) carried the scoring load in the first half with 16 points on 16 shots. The Vikings gave Jon’s defender little help and that allowed Jon to spin and weave his way into good shots. He converted a rebound at 8:50 of the first half at the end of a seven-point run and gave Gordon an 18-15 lead. The next four minutes Salem State shot free throws and layups and jumped back on top 26-20. A layup just before the buzzer by Ben Gaskill (sophomore-6′9″-Columbus OH) assisted by Jon Marstaller cut the Viking lead to 35-31 at halftime.
Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) and Mike Schnackenberg shouldered most of the scoring load in the second half. Mike had 14 points and seemed to thrive on the physical action around the basket. Two of his free throws came at the end of a six-point run and put the Scots ahead, 51-49, with 11 ½ minutes to go. That lead didn’t last because on the next six possessions Gordon missed the front end of a one-and-one, missed two 3’s, committed an offensive foul, and turned the ball over twice. Ugly stuff and the home team capitalized to get in front for good (56-51) with eight minutes left. The Scots closed to within two a couple of times (58-56 and 60-58) but were unable to rebound well enough or shoot well enough to pull this one out.
Gordon (6-2) has now lost to two very good teams (MIT and Salem State) on the road. Considering that this was Gordon’s 4th game in eight days you have to marvel at their ability to control the tempo against a very athletic Viking team.
“Gordon runs a lot of great sets,” said Coach Harvey. “They set great screens and they read screens and take what you give them. Some of their shots didn’t fall that were open. If some of them had we might have had a different ending.”
Ricky Ogboin was Salem State’s leading scorer getting all 12 of his points in the first half. Jeremi Tate turned in a double/double with 12 rebounds and 11 points.
Jon Marstaller led Gordon with 23 points, while Mike Schnackenberg added 18 and Aaron Trigg 17.
In my opinion this was Mike Schnackenberg’s best game. He played with an edge yet kept out of foul trouble.
Aaron Trigg has been showing the tireless defending of Jerry Logan and the shooting form of Mike Herr in recent games. In the past week he’s gone from a team member to a team leader. It’s been nice to watch.
Gordon will finally get some rest before facing Husson College from Bangor next Thursday AFTERNOON at the Bennett Center. Game time is 3PM so I’ll assume that the Blue Sea will be missing and close friends and relatives will occupy the seats.
After the Husson game, it’s the Christmas break before a tournament in Schenectady (NY) on the first weekend in January.
It was interesting for me to see first-year Salem State coach Chris Harvey again. Last time I saw him was at Lasell when I think he was in his first year there as well. I remembered that Troy Justice was coaching Gordon. He remembered that Gordon beat Lasell twice that year.