(Wenham) Gordon 56 Curry 54
The Scots won their first Commonwealth Coast Conference championship Saturday night at the Bennett Center and the first word that comes to mind to describe the game is “exciting.”
In the previous two tourney games, the Scots built up a comfortable lead in the second half and scared none of us in the end game. Against Curry (15-13), the “comfortable” second half lead was only eight points and it shrank to an alarming two points in the last minute.
It’s never a good idea to let an opponent that is trailing by two points have the ball in the last few seconds. But the Scots did and thankfully, Tim MacDonnell stole the inbounds pass to preserve that narrow lead.
With the victory, Gordon (24-4) gets an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament at a site and date/time to be announced on Monday. Gordon got an at-large bid at the end of the 2005-06 season and lost in their opening game to Utica (NY) at Worcester Polytech.
The Scots took the lead for good with 12 ½ minutes left (40-39) thanks to two Brady Bajema (12 points/3 steals) free throws. That lead would be eight (53-45) with four minutes left and six (56-50) on an Aaron Trigg (10 points/5 rebounds) layup with 53 seconds left.
After that, things got verrrrrrrrrrry interesting. Curry made a couple of shots (56-54) and then ended up with a frontcourt-inbounding situation with 3.6 seconds left. Many bad, for Gordon, possibilities were easily imagined. However, Scot defense saved the day as Brady and Aaron heavily defended likely shooters Mark Mastrullo (11 points) and Jarrell Jackson (11 points) and they weren’t open. Ben Gaskill (6-9) prevented the inbounds passer from attempting any sort of lob pass and Timmy MacDonnell anticipated the interior bounce pass, stole it, and had the good sense to lob the ball down the court to let the clock run out.
As the buzzer sounded many of the Gordon faithful raced onto the court to congratulate the 2009-10 CCC champions. Others just stood there in disbelief savoring the moment and trying to quell an accelerated heart rate.
This was the eighth straight appearance for Gordon in the CCC tournament. The first three years they lost in the first round. The next four years they lost in the second round. This time around, they overwhelmed Endicott and Colby-Sawyer in the first two rounds and then hung on for dear life in the championship event.
The Gordon crowd was loud and persistent and their part in spurring the Scots on over the last three tourney games can’t be underestimated.
The Scots had an off game shooting, something that three games in five days, as well as practicing at Endicott on Friday instead of at the Bennett Center because of the power outage, will do to you.
However, defensively the work Brady and Aaron did on Jarrell Jackson and Mark Mastrullo was key to this win. Gordon can be thankful that neither of those Colonels had a shot at the basket in the crucial final play.
Curry led in the early going but a David Dempsey (10 points/5 rebounds) layup assisted by Jeff Derr gave Gordon its first lead, 14-13, with 7 ½ to go in the half. It took a couple of inside moves by Ben Gaskill (9 points/12 rebounds) late to give Gordon a slim 25-24 halftime edge.
Early in the second half Curry put together a six-point run including a difficult layup by 5-7 Jarrell in traffic to build a 37-33 advantage with 14:50 remaining.
But shortly thereafter Gordon put Curry in a hole that they couldn’t dig out of. Over a four-minute span, the Scots went on an eleven-point streak and grabbed an 8-point edge (47-39 – 8:52 left) that Curry spent the rest of the game unsuccessfully trying to overcome. During this run, the points came from David Dempsey (5), and two each from Jeff Derr, Tim, and Brady. The Colonels turned the ball over three times during this crucial sequence.
The final stats enabled several Gordon players to make progress on the All-Time lists. Brady has moved ahead of Scott Beebe (1123) into 14th place in the all-time scorer’s list with 1132. Ben is now third in the all-time rebounding totals with 566 putting him in front of Mike Herr (559).
I have not seen every Gordon game ever played as some suspect but I’m quite sure that this win over Curry and the CCC championship it brought was the Scots top all-time men’s basketball moment. I wonder how those 1300 on hand will remember it in years to come. I’m guessing that some of the Gordon faithful will say something like, “Remember the game Timmy MacDonnell stole the ball in the championship game to give Gordon its first CCC title.”
Greatly appreciated was the rendition of the national anthem by a Gordon student. I’m a fan of having everyone sing it.
It will be a while before I get over all the happiness and relief winning the CCC championship provided. I will never cease marveling over the commitment parents from near and afar make to be on hand for these special moments.