(Wenham) Winners of 19 in a row? Wow!
Hadn’t lost since November 25th? Terrific!
Undefeated in the Commonwealth Coast Conference? Impressive!
The University of New England Nor’easters (20-4 overall/ 11-1 in the CCC) can put all those lofty accomplishments behind them after your Gordon College Fighting Scots defeated them, 82-75, before a revved up Bennett Center on Wednesday night.
You can look at the boxscore of this one and read this writeup but it won’t capture the excitement that this game generated from beginning to end.
Because UNE had been so successful for so long this season, the hope going in was that Gordon could ride the Bennett Center wave, hang in with the talented visitors for as long as possible, and maybe steal one at the end.
And that is what happened. A layup by Marchale Robinson put UNE up 60-58 with 6 ½ left but the Scots were hanging close late into the game.
The next 3 ½ minutes UNE got away from what it does best – driving to the basket – and missed all three attempts from long range. Throw in a turnover and a missed front end of a 1-and-1 by Jaykyri Simpson. and the visitors had nothing to show for five straight possessions.
Meanwhile, your Scots used the 3 ½ minutes to tally thirteen points and stun all of us by surging to a 71-60 advantage.
The last three minutes of the game were painfully slow and tense. Down one end it was hope-for-the-best defensively while at the other end it was one pressure free throw after another. And while UNE did make three 3-pointers in the last two minutes, the Scots answered back with nine straight free throws to minimize the damage.
The place where the Scots looked to be in the most trouble was after a layup by Quentin Thompson had narrowed things to 76-72 with 36 seconds left. Brady was stripped in the frontcourt but recovered to hound UNE’s Johnnie Jefferson into a turnover in front of the UNE bench and gave Gordon the ball back. Consecutive free throws by Brady, Austin Bentson, and Aaron Trigg followed to seal the deal.
Maybe you heard the collective Bennett Center sigh of relief that followed the final buzzer?
Coach Mike Schauer went with a very short bench and it paid off. The Scots faced constant pressure anywhere they had the ball and ended up with 21 turnovers for the game but, and this is a very important but, only two of the give aways came in the last 6 ½ minutes. And it was during this period of strong ball management, with veterans on the floor, that the game was won.
There were some eye-catching stats;
(1) Gordon held UNE to the lowest rebound total (18) for an opponent. They had been averaging 34 rpg.
(2) Senior Jaykyri Simpson (10-for-11 with 23 points) is the most dangerous 1-on-1 player in the CCC. He has the jets to get to the basket but that speed led him into a couple of offensive fouls in this game.
(3) Aaron Trigg led all scorers with 27 points, in a 40-minute performance against the best team in the CCC. Toss in six rebounds and three assists. He has my vote for MVP in the CCC.
(4) UNE had only six assists, which is ten assists under their CCC league-leading average. Good defense or selfish offense?
(5) Brady did some damage to his league-leading 3-point shooting percentage (53.8%) with a 1-for-4 evening but his seven assists should boost him in that important category. His 19 points were huge.
Gordon (18-6 overall/ 8-4 in the CCC) travels to Newport to face an excellent Salve Regina team (also 8-4 in the CCC) on Saturday afternoon. A win there will assure your Scots 3rd place and a home game in the first round of the CCC playoffs next Tuesday night. A loss? They could fall as far as 6th and play on the road Tuesday night.
Gordon’s lone senior, David Flight, was honored before the game. His appearance on court in the last few seconds drew some rousing applause.
UNE had a good group of fans travel south from Biddeford on a snowy evening. It seemed to me that their support of the Nor’Easters just brought out the enthusiasm in the Gordon crowd. Both support groups had plenty to cheer about.
Ben Gaskill leads the CCC in defensive rebounds. He got eight more in this game as well as two blocks. He took a turn at trying to deal with UNE’s driving guards.
Timmy MacDonnell drew a couple of offensive fouls and also tried shooting free throws without his googles on.
6-7 Greg Walker continues to be the go-to guy down low. At times he was covered by 5’9” Steve Belmonte. Now that’s a mismatch! Greg appeared to sprain an ankle in the first half. He did play afterwards and totaled 13 points.
UNE hosts Nichols on Saturday.
One game left in the regular season. Can you believe it?