Gordon Loses in the Tip-Off Classic Finals to Westfield State

Gordon waits for the presentation of the runner-up trophy for the first time in the six-year tournament's history.

(Wenham) Gordon finally lost a game in its annual Tip-Off Classic.  This was the 6th year of the event and the home-team Scots had won eleven straight games in the two-game annual format.

Westfield State did the streak ending as they held off Gordon, 54-51, at the Bennett Center on Saturday night. 

Brady Bajema and AaronTrigg  made the All-Tourney team but it was the Westfield State team and tournament MVP (Anthony Griffin) who were smiling afterwards. 

Coach Rich Sutter’s teams had reached the finals in 2005 and 2007 and lost but this time rode Anthony Griffin’s 22 points, clutch 3-point shooting in the second half, and terrific interior defense to the win.

The Owls (3-0) took the lead with 12 ½ minutes remaining in this low-scoring game (38-35) on Derek Leab’s only three and never trailed again. 

The Scots didn’t go away thereafter but any semblance of shooting accuracy sure did.  Over the next fourteen possessions, Gordon tallied just seven points but remarkably, this was enough to narrow the Owl lead to 43-41 with less than four minutes left. 

The game was there for the taking for the home team if they could make some consecutive shots.  I was thinking at the time, “This is the Tip-Off tourney and Gordon finds a way to win every year so hang in there and watch it happen.” 

But this time around, the next two baskets were scored by Westfield State as Asa Abbott and Nate Pollard both hit their only 3’s of the game.  This unusual (for this game) instant offense gave the Owls a 49-41 advantage with just over three minutes left. Those dagger 3’s tossed the Scots out of one-possession range for good.  Only Brady’s last-second 3 closed the spread to three (54-51) but there was no time left for a Gordon steal and a tying long shot attempt.

Westfield’s Anthony Griffin (6’ junior) was the tourney MVP and he deserved it.  He put in 22 points with quickness and an assorted shot selection. 

The Scots shot a woeful 28.6% (16 for 56) and missed some easy ones that were a big surprise to the significant crowd that gathered. 

I assumed before the game that Westfield State would have the tired legs after a tight game with Baruch the night before, but I was wrong.  They played with plenty of defensive energy.  Gordon may well have been feeling the effects of the long minutes for the starters needed in the tight Husson win on Wednesday.

The lack of a pure point guard plagued the Scots as both Aaron Trigg and Brady Bajema had five turnovers each.  They were heavily guarded and never had much success creating their own offense.  Aaron appeared to get more daylight during the game but his shots (missed five 3’s in the last ten minutes) wouldn’t fall consistently.  He ended up with 15 points but it took 22 shots to do it.

The Gordon faithful saw what happens when a defense shuts down the team’s inside game, specifically Greg Walker.  The 6’7” junior reached double figures 21 times last season and went into the Westfield State game with two straight highly productive outings.  The Owls active defense limited Greg to six shots and he registered just two points.  Lose the inside points and the pressure turns to outside shooting which on this night couldn’t make up the difference.

Gordon returns to action on November 24th (Tuesday) at Salem State at 8PM.  A week from that game (December 1st) the Scots host rival Eastern Nazarene.  I’ll be following those games long range (Barbados) with hopes of seeing the ENC contest on the Gordon website.

I trust that your Thanksgiving gatherings will be blessed events.


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Filed under Gordon College men's basketball 2009-10, Salem State, Tip-Off Tournament, Westfield State

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