(Wenham) Gordon (20-4/11-1) reached twenty wins for the second straight season defeating unorthodox UNE, 64-61, at the Bennett Center on Wednesday evening.
The visiting Nor’easters (11-12/7-5) relied heavily on long-range shooting (12-for-35) while keeping Gordon under wraps from the same distance. It nearly worked. The Scots suffered through a 1-for-11 evening from long distance.
UNE poured in three of those 3’s during a little over thirty seconds in the last minute of the game and a comfortable Gordon 61-50 advantage with 46 seconds left shrunk to 63-59 with ten seconds left. An Austin Bentson free throw (11 points) was offset by a couple of Kadare Brown free throws but UNE never got into a position where they could tie or win on a possession late.
This was a game of extreme highs and lows unlike any I’ve seen this season.
At the start, Aaron Trigg scored on a layup after a nice feed from Brady Bajema. These would be Aaron’s only points of the half.
The University of New England followed with fifteen straight points. Their full-court pressure caused four turnovers and Gordon burned a couple of timeouts. When was the last time the Scots trailed, 15-2, at home?
A three from Marcus Winn (10 points) gave UNE a solid 19-6 advantage seven minutes into the game. However, the rest of the half was all Gordon as they came all the way back. David Dempsey’s 3-point play assisted by Greg Walker gave Gordon a 25-22 lead with 1 ½ minutes left. JD Winn’s layup ended the half at 25-24.
The second half? Off to the races went UNE at the start, getting the first eight points as 3’s by Kadare Brown and Ryan Knotek plus a layup by Kadare had the Scots on their heels (32-25) after 2 ½ minutes had gone by.
Not to worry, back came Gordon with ten straight to regain the lead (35-32). The last two baskets were a layup and a breakaway, crowd-pleasing dunk by Ben Gaskill.
That lead would stretch to 46-36 after a put-back by David Dempsey. You sensed that maybe Gordon would pull away and make the ending comfortable. Not tonight.
4 ½ minutes later, the Scots returned to the hang-on-for-dear-life mode after Marcus Winn hit consecutive 3’s to tighten things (51-49) with three minutes left.
However, just as suddenly, UNE fell apart. The Scots paraded to the free throw line and made ten-of-eleven while UNE had one free throw to go along with a string of misses and a technical foul (Keith Beasley). This segment got Gordon to a lead of 61-50 with 46 seconds left before UNE came back to life with 3’s and made things exciting at the end.
“High scorer,” and “Austin Bentson,” has never been in the same sentence before but his eleven points earned the honor on this night.
UNE came in with the best defense in the CCC against the 3-point shot. The Scots are believers now as they shot just 1-for-11 from long range. Neither Brady nor Aaron could connect.
Freshman Kadare Brown (23 points) registered 18 of those points in the second half including eight in the last minute.
Ben Gaskill was the key piece in the Gordon win. He established a new career high in rebounds (16) getting eleven of them in the second half. More important could well have been the defensive job he did on Quentin Thompson, arguably UNE’s best player. Ben took away the inside from Quentin and the sophomore’s outside game (3-for-17) was missing.
So Gordon gives up a 15-point run, gets no 3’s from Aaron and Brady, surrenders eleven points in the last minute, and yet still wins. Is this where I’m supposed to say, “Good teams find a way to win?” There, I’ve said it.
The Scots continue to surprise me with their handling of full-court pressure. Only six of their fifteen turnovers happened in the second half.
Brady was awarded a basketball commemorating his arrival into the 1000-point club. Brady is currently at 1083, just behind Justin Kaufman (1088) for 15th place all-time.
Aaron is at 1515 points and closing in on 4th all-time scorer Steve Heinz at 1545.
Ben, with 532 career rebounds, has Mike Herr (559) ahead of him as Gordon’s 3rd all-time rebounder.
Saturday at the Bennett Center is the game before which the seniors get recognition. It is hard to imagine next year’s team minus; Jeff Derr, Aaron Trigg, Brady Bajema, Tim MacDonnell, and Ben Gaskill.
The opponent on Saturday is Salve Regina. This team won’t make the CCC tournament so they could have plenty of motivation to end their season with a win over the CCC’s best regular-season team on its home court.