(Wenham) You never saw such shooting. I know, I said that after the last game when Gordon blew out Curry but this was different because both teams, Gordon and New England College, shot over 50% for the game.
The bottom line was that the home team, your Fighting Scots, emerged victorious, 87-78, over the visiting Pilgrims on Thursday evening at the Bennett Center.
Gordon is now, 13-4, with a 5-2 Commonwealth Coast Conference record. Ahead they have three extremely difficult games (Endicott-away, Bates-away, and Husson-home). The Endicott game is Saturday afternoon at Beverly and those paying attention know that the Scots have NEVER won over there. If the Gordon rooting section shows up it could be a full house with plenty of excitement.
New England never led in this game but for most of it they matched the Scots shot for shot. “They hung in there,” said Gordon coach Mike Schauer afterwards. “We just couldn’t stop them. Give them credit.”
The way the Pilgrims stayed competitive throughout was very surprising considering that they’re winless in the CCC and during their previous five visits to the Bennett Center, they’ve lost by at least 18 points. The effort his team displayed in this one pleased Pilgrim coach Charlie Mason. “I hope it will give us some momentum the rest of the way.”
The pattern in the previous games between the two teams has been for Gordon to jump out to a big lead early and coast in. When Gordon ran nine straight points and surged to an 11-2 advantage 4 ½ minutes in I thought the same type of game was about to unfold. It didn’t happen. Both teams scored 76 points apiece the rest of the way.
Gordon’s seniors had big contributions and big minutes. “I thought that our seniors (Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT), Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME), and Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME)) wouldn’t let us lose,” said Coach Schauer. “We rode them a little bit tonight.”
Justin has found his shooting touch over the last four games totaling a remarkable 13-for-26 long range during that stretch. “(Justin) Kaufman hit some big shots for them,” said Coach Mason. “Last year another senior, Jerry Logan, hurt us. The year before that it was the senior guard from Vermont (Scott Allenby). Is every time we come here Senior Day?”
Justin’s three with 2:44 left gave Gordon a ten-point lead (81-71) and enough of a cushion to keep even the torrid shooting Pilgrims from catching up. Justin finished with 22 points of which 19 came in the second half.
Mike Schnackenberg’s 19 points were his highest of the season. He shoots over 50% for the season and didn’t hurt that stat at all with a 9-for-11 effort in this game. The Scots had 23 assists and Mike was on the scoring end of quite a few of them.
Coach Schauer wasn’t comfortable with all the scoring his team allowed but thought that his team needed a game like this one. “This has been an odd year because we’ve either blown teams out or gotten blown out in most of them. There has been none that has been tight down the stretch where we had to grind one out. This was that game and we persevered.”
It proved to me that even in a game where holding the opponent to their CCC-leading 60.7 points per game goes out the window with 7 ½ minutes left Gordon has the scorers to take an offense that is averaging 69.7 points per game and pour in 87 points. Whether the Scots can take that great shooting on the road against Endicott and Bates will go a long way toward our getting a read on how Gordon will do come tournament time because a road win or two may be required then.
After falling behind 11-2 early the Pilgrims got back to within one point several times but left trailing, 36-32, at the half.
Coach Schauer was delighted to be ahead at the half. “We had both Justin and Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) in foul trouble for the first time together all season. That forced us to play lineups that we haven’t played all season against a team that I didn’t think we could play those lineups against. But we got through it.”
The second half was an amazing display of offense by both teams. Gordon shot 65.4% and put up 51 points. In fact, by my figuring, the Scots didn’t miss a shot during the last eight minutes. And the way New England was shooting (57.6%) the Scots needed every point they could put up.
Gordon did get up by ten points (50-40) after an Aaron Trigg layup but consecutive 3’s from Rafael Salado put the Pilgrims within four points in a hurry. Later a Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) three pushed Gordon’s advantage to nine (66-57 – 8:52) but the visitors answered with five of their own to close the gap to, 66-62, with 7 ½ minutes left.
The teams then swapped turnovers before Gordon went on a run of seven straight possessions with no missed shots or turnovers. During this stretch of solid offense the Scots collected 15 points to the Pilgrims 9. This put Gordon on top, 81-71, with 2:44 left and the Pilgrims didn’t have enough time to catch up.
Ryan Jaziri came in with a 23.8 points per game average and got 24 points in this one. You never saw a quicker release on a 3-point shot. He leads the CCC in scoring.
Kingsley Onyechi had a 14-point second half on his way to 22 points.
The Pilgrims are 5-13 overall and 0-6 in the CCC. Their next opponent is Salve Regina.
Coach Schauer was never comfortable with the tempo of this game. “There were no fouls. There were no free throws. The game just went back and forth. We can’t play like that. We’re not athletic enough.”
The lack of fouls on New England late in the game hurt them. Gordon was trying to run time off the clock and every time the Pilgrims would foul it didn’t result in free throws. Instead, the Scots kept the ball, the shot clock went back to 35 seconds, and they could play keep-away as more time went off the clock.
Anyhow, Gordon has three games in the next six days. Each presents its own special challenge; the team has never won at Endicott, the team has never (?) beaten Bates, and Husson beat Gordon by 17 in Bangor in a game that was over at halftime.
We know that Gordon can defend and we know that at home they can score points. Can they do these things on the road versus Endicott and Bates? I guess that’s why they play the games……..so we’ll be able to find out.