(Springfield) Let’s get the bad news out of the way first – Gordon took nearly five minutes to score and fell behind 7-0. The good news? Everything else that happened thereafter.
Gordon defeated highly regarded Western New England 67-59 on the road on Saturday afternoon and in the process clinched a spot in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament that starts on Tuesday February 26th. Who their opponent will be and where they’ll play, will be decided league-wise over the final two games of the season.
Both Gordon and WNEC are now 8-3 in the CCC. The Scots (16-7 overall) take their road show to Biddeford (Maine) on Wednesday night to face another team with three losses – the University of New England.
Gordon Coach Mike Schauer was delighted with the win. “It feels great because we have been struggling and haven’t played very well. Now we’ll see if we can carry it over because UNE is every bit as good as Western New England.”
Let me pour that good news from this game on you, and there was plenty of it.
The seniors that the coach was worrying about after the Colby-Sawyer game (Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME) and Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME)), were huge in this one.
“Jon competed hard today,” said Coach Schauer. “Sometimes all that it takes to do well is to play hard. Athletics is a real simple business. However, it’s not easy to get kids to play hard all the time.” In this one Jon was a significant part of an interior defense that surrendered few layups and forced the Golden Bears to become jump shooters.
Mike returned to his double/double ways (3rd time in 4 games) and ended with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He carried the team in the first half, scoring wise (12 points) and it was fitting that his layup on an assist from Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT) put the Scots in the lead for good, 21-19, at the 5:20 mark of the first half.
Let’s leave the seniors for a paragraph. A couple of games ago Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL) came off the bench in the first half to spark the Scots. Today it was freshman Greg Walker (freshman-6′7″-Uxbridge MA) who provided a couple of baskets. “Greg made some big shots,” recalled Coach Schauer. “He is going to be a very good player. He’s got to learn to play the other end of the floor a little bit but don’t we all.”
And Justin Kaufman? This was a vintage Justin game. He turned in his sixth 40-minute game of the season – he leads the CCC in average minutes played. But the play from this game that I’ll remember for a long time happened in the last minute. WNEC had closed to 61-56 with 1:18 left and were looking for a defensive stop. Justin took the inbounds pass, and with WNEC’s best defender (Asif Abdul-Wadud) on him, went through nearly his entire repertoire of spins and dribbles before blowing by the excellent defender and down the lane for a successful lay-in. Therefore, in one crucial possession he ate up 28 valuable seconds on the clock and boosted the Gordon lead to seven points when he was done. Truly a memorable play!
Well, if you’ve looked at the boxscore you’re asking, “What about Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS)?” I haven’t forgotten him. Last time I saw him he was being hounded by the CCC’s best 3-point defense at Colby-Sawyer last Tuesday. Not many good looks for him in that one but today was a different story. Aaron was able to dial long distance ten times and got the answer he wanted five times on his way to 23 points.
Fifteen of Aaron’s points came in the second half and none caused more groans from the sizable Senior Day crowd then the buzzer-beating three he had with eleven minutes left. This was not the high-percentage catch-and-shoot three. This was the “Shoot, shoot, shoot,” variety the last player with the ball takes as the 35-second clock is just about to end. The Golden Bears had gotten close (43-41) before this particular three went in.
Later the Scots built the lead to 55-45 with 5:43 remaining on an excellent close-to-the-basket play. In it Jon looked to go to the basket but when a double-team showed up he found his fellow Mainer (Mike) alone for a layup.
Near the end of the game, Matt Maynard’s only three of the afternoon put WNEC within a couple of possessions, 63-59, with 36 seconds to go but that ended their scoring. Aaron closed out the game with four straight free throws.
The seniors on the WNEC team were honored before the game and then at halftime seniors from other campus groups were recognized. “I was impressed with the way they did it,” said Coach Schauer. “It is hard to do justice to all the seniors you have, and all the awards you want to give away, and yet maintain it in a time frame that’s conducive. We’re in the business of celebrating young people so it was great to watch.”
Surprisingly, all three of WNEC’s losses have been at home (Roger Williams/Wentworth/Gordon). They nearly lost to both UNE (OT) and Curry at home. In a preseason poll, the coaches in the CCC picked WNEC to win the conference. That was probably based on the facts of their having four starters back and a schedule that brought many of the successful teams of the previous season to their court.
The biggest game in the conference so far will be next Wednesday when Roger Williams (one loss) takes on Curry (two losses) for what should determine the #1 seed in the tournament.
Tim MacDonnell (sophomore-6′2″-Jericho VT)’s “goggles” always seem to get the attention of the road audiences the Scots face. I’m told that they’re regular glasses. I recall someone at Roger Williams yelling to Tim that, “the pool is down the hall.”
I gave someone at WNEC high marks for chanting, “Tennis elbow, tennis elbow,” when Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) went to the foul line with his right elbow wrapped.
Let me close with Coach Schauer’s favorite line when describing games like the Western New England one, “Any road victory is a good road victory.”