(Springfield MA) Gordon 83 Western New England 79
That winning score took on added significance when we learned, after this Saturday afternoon game, that on the same day Wentworth had defeated 2nd place Curry. That combination clinched the home court for the Scots in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament that starts on February 23rd.
Yes, there are two games left – Wednesday (UNE) and Saturday (Salve Regina) – but the outcome of neither game changes Gordon’s spot atop the CCC standings.
Gordon (19-4/10-1) squandered leads in both halves to free shooting WNEC (12-11/7-4) and had a tie game on their hands with 2:15 left (74-74). Here’s what I saw in the end game:
The Scots returned to the lead (76-74) when Ben Gaskill found teammate Greg Walker for a layup with two minutes to go.
I refer to WNEC as “free shooting.” No need for a 35-second clock for them. They came into the game averaging 79 points per game and seldom turned down the first good look that appeared.
The Golden Bears ended up shooting over 50% for the game. However, with the chance late, down two; to catch up, they came up empty on a jump shot, two free throws, and a take-the-lead three. Gordon (Austin Bentson) had missed a three in the middle of all this.
Finally, another layup by Greg Walker on a feed from Brady Bajema (32 seconds left) boosted the Gordon advantage to four points and put WNEC out of one-possession position.
The teams traded solo free throws before Brad Thomka (13 points) hit both of his freebies with fourteen seconds remaining (79-77).
The Scots avoided turnovers on the next two possessions and forced WNEC to foul the #1 free throw shooter in the CCC (Brady) and later the #6 free throw shooter in the CCC (Aaron Trigg). The Gordon co-captains nailed all four attempts, and in the process never gave the home team a chance to be in a position to launch a last-second game winner.
Brady (20 points /5 assists), Aaron (27 points /5 rebounds), and Greg (16 points /5 rebounds) have entered every game this season getting special defensive attention, whether it involves personnel or positioning or both. Nothing worked very well defensively for WNEC (last in CCC in points given up) although in the first half the Golden Bears frustrated attempts to get the ball inside to Greg causing turnovers and limiting him to two points. Second half? Greg found openings inside for fourteen points including two layups after WNEC had tied the score late.
Ben set career highs in rebounds (14) and assists (4).
Aaron’s points in this one put him over 1500 and into 5th place on the all-time scorer list ahead of Jon Marstaller.
Brady, who has already joined the 1000-point club, now has 1075 points and is closing fast on one of this game’s spectators (Justin Kaufman) who ended his career with 1088 points.
This was the last home game for WNEC and they celebrated their seniors from a number of sports. Gordon goes through its own senior celebration next Saturday with the basketball teams.
The biggest cheer of the game came for freshman David Dempsey when he entered the game. The noisemakers were the partisans from the Wallingford (CT) area.
The next opponent for the Scots is UNE next Wednesday night. Remember last year, UNE came to Gordon undefeated and didn’t leave that way. However, they also had clinched the home court by then. Someone looking for an excuse for the loss could say that UNE wasn’t motivated. You wonder if the Scots could fall into the same trap.
The eye-opening stats to consider heading into the game with UNE are from UNE’s game at WNEC on January 30th. UNE defeated WNEC (87-79) and forced 34 turnovers getting 20 steals! The Scots are going to get a serious dose of ball-hawking defense on Wednesday night for sure. One optimistic stat from Gordon’s game with WNEC was that they had just four turnovers in the second half and zero over the last eight minutes.
The Scots built up an 18-8 lead in the first seven minutes of the first half but WNEC rode hot-shooting senior Brendan Murphy (14 points in the half) back to a 34-32 halftime advantage.
The Bears started slowly in the second half while the Scots were sizzling. Ten minutes in the Scots led 61-48 and looked to be in command. Wrong. Gordon missed shots and had two turnovers during the next three minutes while WNEC ran ten straight to close to 61-58. It took Greg’s patented jump hook to stop the bleeding temporarily. Four + minutes later a Rick Johnson free throw tied the game with 2:15 left. Thereafter, as described above, poise and points earned yet another Gordon victory.