(Wenham) There was plenty to like in this one as Gordon (10-2) won its second Commonwealth Coast Conference game defeating Wentworth, 81-67, at the Bennett Center on Saturday afternoon before a pretty good school’s-not-in-session crowd.
Understand Wentworth’s quality. They won the CCC tournament last year and had a good portion of that team back including last season’s CCC MVP Sherrad Prezzie-Blue. In a preseason vote this year, the CCC coaches predicted that Wentworth was the team to beat this season.
Start a game against a fine team like that with four missed shots and four turnovers in the first five minutes and you should be in some serious trouble. Well, your Scots did that and trailed, 10-0.
“I thought that the game turned on a couple of plays,” said Gordon Coach Mike Schauer afterwards. One was Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL)’s minutes early when he scored (Gordon’s first basket) and seemed to settle us down a little bit.”
Once settled the Scots began the long climb back. A collection of eight unanswered points early in the second half put Gordon in front for the first time, 39-38, with 18:25 left. A couple of lead changes followed before an old-fashioned three by Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) put the Scots ahead to stay, 49-46, with less than 13 minutes to go.
Later a six point run, highlighted by a steal on an inbounds play by hustling Tim MacDonnell (sophomore-6′2″-Jericho VT) pushed the spread to eight (60-52) with nine minutes left. “Tim MacDonnell’s play was pivotal,” said Coach Schauer. “It felt to me then as if we were starting to get some control.”
If Tim’s steal didn’t seal the deal Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA)’s end-of-the-35-second-clock three did that for Gordon. The trey from the right corner extended the lead to 12 (68-56) with 2 ½ left. A run of 10 straight successful free throws kept the Leopards from getting into any sort of last minute comebacks as they did last year in the CCC tournament disaster (for Gordon) in February in the same gym.
I wrote earlier that there was plenty to like in this one. So far we’ve got things like; beating arguably the best team in the conference and coming back strong after a very slow start to win going away. I suppose I should mention that Aaron Trigg had 32 points including 25 points in the second half. You read that right. This kid was so hot there were smoke detectors at the Bennett Center getting ready to do what they do!
“(Aaron) Trigg had a wonderful performance,” explained Wentworth Coach Tom Devitt. “He’s going to be a tremendous player for them, in fact already is. It’s one thing for a big man inside to score a lot of points but when you do it from the perimeter it’s special.”
Coach Schauer added, “We have watched Aaron ascend into being a star.”
Aaron’s remarkable performance included six very difficult drives to the basket in shot-blocker territory. It works for Aaron because not only is he very quick but he also is unselfish and will lay off to someone else for a layup if a new defender shows up – note the four assists.
I have been around Coach Schauer long enough to know that in this game Aaron’s 32 points wouldn’t be all that he would want to talk to me afterward about. Seeing Sherrad Prezzie-Blue with only three points on the stat sheet tipped me off. Please recall that Sherrad was the MVP in the CCC last season and deserved it especially after he took the Leopards to the tournament title last season. This season the senior guard has started strong with a nifty 19.9 scoring average.
In this game he had to spend 38 minutes in close company with Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT). Shut down is putting it mildly as Sherrad hit a three in the first half and that was it for the entire game. “I don’t think that Sherrad has ever been in a situation where he has been held to three points,” recalled Coach Devitt.
Coach Schauer continued his (pet peeve?) that people spend too much time looking at scoring stats and don’t notice what a player such as Justin contributes. “In my world what Justin did was more impressive than what Aaron did and that’s not to take anything away from Aaron. There are guys who can score a lot of points but not a lot of guys who are willing to embrace the idea that for 40 minutes you’re going to guard the best player in our league. Justin is having a great year.”
The loss was frustrating for Wentworth because of the fluctuation in team effort. “We want to out-effort the other team because that will win you games no matter who you play,” said Coach Devitt. “In this one we played about 27 minutes. I can’t understand how a team that holds Gordon scoreless for five minutes to start the game can give up 50 points in the second half.”
Wentworth (6-5) was led in scoring by impressive big man Shane West (17) and Todd Doyle (16).
For Gordon the top scorers were Aaron (32), Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME) (13), and Brady Bajema (13).
Next game for the Scots will be against high scoring Anna Maria on Tuesday night (8PM) at the Bennett Center. The Leopards will host ENC on the same night.