(Wenham) “Thank you, seniors.” That is what the sizable crowd (over 1000) chanted as this afternoon’s victory (66-64) over Salve Regina was secured at the Bennett Center. The Scots ended the 25-game regular season with 17 wins.
In the Commonwealth Coast Conference, the Scots finished 9-4 and, because of their win over Salve Regina and losses by Western New England and the University of New England elsewhere, became the #3 seed in the tournament. They will host Wentworth on Tuesday night at the Bennett Center starting at 7PM.
On a day when Gordon’s seniors were celebrated Coach Mike Schauer was quick to point out their major accomplishments: “Gordon has been 74-32 during their time here and over the last three years has not lost a home conference game.”
The Gordon seniors were honored but the most productive senior on the floor on this day was Salve Regina’s Steve Walsh. The 6-7 post player totaled 25 points and spelled big trouble for the Scots anytime he got the ball down low.
His efforts put that home conference streak in serious jeopardy and the outcome of this game was in doubt right into the final minute. In fact, the Seahawks had four opportunities to tie the score in the last minute.
“I was proud of the way the team played today,” said Seahawk Coach Sean Foster afterwards. “We could have packed it in since we didn’t make the playoffs.” SR finished with seven straight losses and a 6-19 overall record. In that losing streak they took #1 seed Curry into overtime and lost a close game last Saturday at Endicott and now this close one to Gordon. As they say, if it weren’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all.
The visitors used 3-point shots to build up several four-point leads (26-22, 30-24, and 36-32) which were their largest of the game. The Scots biggest lead was 46-40 with 14:46 left after Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME) made an old-fashioned three and Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) followed with the new version.
SR tied the score (55-55) with just under six minutes left before a Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT) layin with 5 ½ to go gave the Scots the lead (57-55) for good. It was vintage Justin – dribble in search of a lane to the basket. How many times have we seen him do it?
Here Justin is pictured receiving a basketball commemorating his 1000th point before the game from Coach Schauer.
Steve Walsh brought the Seahawks within one point twice the rest of the way with a layup after a neat lob pass (61-60 at 3:26) and a converted rebound (63-62 at 1:35). “Steve has finished the season strong,” understated Coach Foster. “He’s very good in the post.”
Unfortunately, the Seahawks next points wouldn’t come until just before the final buzzer.
Meanwhile, for Gordon, Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME) and Mike Schnackenberg combined beautifully (they’ve played together four years) for the winning basket. Jon didn’t score in the last 17 ½ minutes of the second half but on this crucial play he got the ball down low and while spinning into the lane spotted a defender sliding his way to double team and found Mike alone under the basket. This particular play (put Gordon ahead 65-62) and turned out to be large when SR came up empty on their next four possessions.
Justin did his part in one of those unsuccessful SR possessions by falling on a loose ball near the scorer’s table and getting the benefit of the possession arrow.
“I thought that we didn’t have a ton of energy in this one,” recalled Coach Schauer. “I think that we were still tired from Wednesday’s circus (loss to UNE). That wasn’t a game you walk away feeling very good about on any level.”
However, the season ended on a winning note and we get to see Wentworth again. On January 12th the teams met and Gordon won 81-67. If you archive the game story on that one you will be reminded of the following; Gordon fell behind 10-0, Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) had 32 points including 25 in the second half, and CCC MVP Sherrad Prezzie-Blue of Wentworth scored just three points. It may be a reach to expect any of those three things to happen again but you never know.
One quote that Wentworth Coach Tom Devitt told me he made after the loss that game to his team still rings true, “I told my team that championships aren’t won in January. That happens the end of February.” A week from today we’ll know which team is the best in the conference. It could well be Gordon or Wentworth.
It was nice to see Keith Krass (Senior-6′2″-Beach Park IL) get a start. How important was the basket he made when the final margin was two points?
Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL) has made 34 of 36 free throws. That’s an incredible 94.4%. He can make 3’s and he can play with his back to the basket. He’s become an important point contributor since his first double-digit scoring game against Curry on January 26th.
It was great to see a full house on the student side. The noise level? Very disappointing. There were timeouts late in the game where the student section sat in silence. Head back to the library if you want to be quiet. Can anyone over there yell, “Give me a G?” Sometimes a crowd can reach the “Sixth Man” level. It might be worth striving for that level on Tuesday night.