(Newport RI) After that meltdown 90-64 loss to Colby-Sawyer eleven days ago at home, you had to wonder where your Scots would be four games later at the regular season’s end. Sitting then at 6-4 in league play, with Western New England, UNE, and Salve Regina on the upcoming schedule, you had to at least entertain the thought that Gordon could miss the playoffs.
Fear not, eleven days later not only are the Scots in the eight-team playoffs but they’re seeded #3 after this afternoon’s 75-67 win at Salve Regina.
Yes, that’s four straight wins to close out the season including a nonleague victory over Bates. This team is rolling and gets Roger Williams in the first round on Tuesday night (7PM) at the Bennett Center.
In the other part of the playoff bracket that Gordon is in, Wentworth travels to Colby-Sawyer. Am I the only one that notices that the three teams in the playoffs we’ve lost to are in our bracket while four teams we’ve beaten (UNE/Nichols/Salve Regina/Western New England) are in the other bracket. No one ever suggested that the playoffs would be easy!
You’re wondering about the game with Salve I suspect? For the second straight game (UNE was the other), Gordon faced a team willing and able to press fullcourt. It made every possession for your Scots a bit of an adventure.
Gordon, meanwhile, restricted its defensive efforts to halfcourt and did a great job disrupting any sort of offense that SR attempted to run in the first half. The Seahawks, however, did find enough offense to garner a 15-15 tie with ten minutes played.
The rest of the half? My notes had Gordon missing only three shots while collecting 24 points. Salve? I had them for four turnovers, at least twelve missed shots, and getting only six points. Some games are won early. The Scots led 39-21 at halftime.
Where did the points come from? Seven different players contributed. As one spectator said afterwards, “I don’t think Gordon ever took a bad shot.” They did not make all their shots but took most of them from places where the percentages were in their favor.
(All photos added to this game story were provided to me by a professional photographer – Ron Harden. He has a collection of Gordon action shots. Some of them are in this story while others are in previous stories, and some I haven’t used or seen. He can be contacted for purchasing details at firstname.lastname@example.org )
If the Gordon faithful on hand remembers only one shot from this game, it will be the first-half jam by Ben Gaskill during the breakaway run. It happened in the last minute of the half. Timmy MacDonnell got the ball to Big Ben on a press break (I would have given Tim an assist) and Ben took a step into the lane and jammed it. This is the first one we’ve had all season. The Bennett Center crowd would have gone crazy. Maybe Tuesday night?
All those good things in the second part of the first half did give the Scots a nice 18-point cushion but it wasn’t a comfortable lead, if you know what I mean. Salve had an identical 8-4 CCC record. They were playing at home and they had honored seniors before the game. They wouldn’t be going to defeat quietly.
For the first 9 ½ minutes of the second half Gordon stayed in comfortable control. A Brady Bajema 3-pointer gave the Scots their largest lead of the game, 54-34. With 5 ½ minutes to go Greg Walker sank a couple of free throws and a layup and the lead was still in the comfort zone – 62-45.
The rest of the way, SR went into a helter-skelter mode, and created some excitement. They had been firing three’s the whole game but had made four of them during the first 35 minutes of play. The last five minutes they hit five of them.
Defensively, I figured that they’d start to foul on every possession to stop the clock the way UNE had done the last game. But they didn’t. Instead, they pressed in the backcourt and double-teamed the ball-control Scots in the frontcourt. Six turnovers resulted but, and again this is a big but, there were eight possessions when the Seahawks aggressive defense sent Gordon to the foul line.
And foul shooting has turned into a huge positive over the last four games – 86 for 102, which comes out to 84%. In this end game on the road versus SR the Scots hit 13 of 16 freebies, which offset the suddenly effective Seahawk long-range game. SR got to within six points a couple of times near the end on made 3’s but never had possession to get closer.
Greg Walker registered his third double/double (17 points/10 rebounds) of the season and led all participants in both categories. He also had an important blocked shot late in the game on Dan Royce. Greg is getting multiple defenders almost every time he gets the ball in close.
Brady and Aaron both had 15 points and combined for 14-for-15 from the foul line but it was their defense on Justin Woodworth and Windell Hinkson that caught my eye. Brady’s glue-like defense had a lot to do with keeping Justin (18.8 ppg) down to 11 points. Windell didn’t get many clean looks either and it took him 18 shots to get 14 points.
As usual, there were a couple of eye-catching stats in the box score.
(1) Salve committed 19 fouls in the second half and they weren’t fouling intentionally. Gordon had 18 fouls for the entire game.
(2) SR’s 14 steals ties a season high (Curry) in that category. Scot dribbling into double-teams caused a number of them to happen.
(3) This is the fifth time that Gordon has had at least 40 rebounds this season. That number was reached only four times in all of the previous three seasons!
Gordon’s first round opponent (Roger Williams) may be the sixth seed but they have to be pleased that they get the Scots. They have defeated Gordon 4 straight times including that hideous display of basketball exactly one month ago. It will be a long time before I forget our 14-10 HALFTIME lead in that one and the 50-37 final score. We also have never beaten RWU in the playoffs. Some might say that we now have them right where we want them! The game is at the Bennett Center and lately good things have happened to the home team there.
You can’t take a trip to Salve Regina and Newport without marveling at the mansions nearby. The cost of heating such a place might require some sort of stimulus package.