(Dudley MA) The Gordon men’s basketball team was on the doorstep of, “Better luck next year,” and, “Have a safe ride home,” in the second half of the biggest game of their Commonwealth Coast Conference season.
Gordon trailed, 56-39, with 10:32 left against Nichols, the best shooting team in the CCC, in front of very noisy Bison crowd.
The Scots had lost to Nichols twice during the regular season. Ryan Sheehan (Nichols’ top all-time scorer) had already scored sixteen points in the second half.
Have you gotten the point that Gordon was in very serious trouble? Okay, then let’s move on.
The amazing Scots rallied from near-death to the CCC championship in a remarkable final 10 1/2 minutes.
During the memorable final stretch anything that could go right for Gordon did while, simultaneously, Nichols had few answers to the Scots’ surge on either end.
The Scots heated up big-time making eight-of-twelve shots including four 3’s. They also sank nine of the biggest ten free throws of the season. And the best stat yet? ONE turnover.
That turnover stat was significant because going into the final 10 1/2 minutes the Scots already had twenty-one of them. In fact the first question most Gordon folks had at halftime was, “How many turnovers did we have?” The answer was “fifteen!”
Gordon was able to generate one point-producing possession after another while Nichols (averaged 78.9 points per game) struggled to score.
The Bison (22-6) could produce only nine points shooting just 2-for-14. Sam Horning’s two 3-pointers were the only connections from the field that Nichols had. Ryan Sheehan added three free throws.
Gordon (17-10) put together streaks of twelve and eight unanswered points to pull even, 62-62, with 2:41 left in someone’s season.
In the 12-point run, Shaun Roach had a three, Richie Armand made two free throws, and Hans Miersma added two layups and three free throws.
Hans earned the last two free throws after getting fouled by Joe Gallant. Joe went out with five fouls and 6:24 left. In the process Nichols lost their best defender against 6-9 Hans Miersma. That would cost the Bison later.
Sam Horning’s two 3’s stabilized Nichols for the moment giving the home team a, 62-54, lead with 4:48 remaining.
But Nichols couldn’t hold that lead because Alex Carnes, with family (from Arizona) and fiancé looking on, went on his own 8-point run. Alex (2nd team CCC) drilled two 3’s, had a steal, and drove in for a tying layup (62-62) with 2:41 left.
Ryan Sheehan and Park Thomas both converted two free throws so the score was still tied (64-64) with 2:17 left.
In Nichols next possession, Ryan made only one of two free throws but the Bison now had a one-point lead.
Alex Carnes then missed a three and Chris Johnson had a turnover (steal by Jason Dempsey).
I referenced earlier that Nichols defender Joe Gallant had fouled out. Next Gordon possession Hans was able to get an entry pass and spin in for a short soft hook to put GC in front, 66-65, with 1:09 remaining.
Plenty of time for Nichols to do something. Ryan Sheehan (defended by Alex Carnes) was able to work his way in close to the basket. However, Hans Miersma, who is now Gordon’s all-time shot blocker, rejected Ryan’s shot and controlled the ball. Ryan fouled Hans immediately with thirty-nine seconds left.
Hans gave the Scots a two-point lead (67-65) making one of two free throws.
Still plenty of time for Nichols to pull out a win. Gustave Koumare drove on Park Thomas and missed a contested layup. However, Gustave got his own rebound and was fouled by Park with six seconds left.
The chance to tie was still in play but Gustave missed both shots and Luke Hamilton got the rebound on the second miss and was quickly fouled.
The Gordon senior had taken only eleven free throw tries during the entire season…….but Luke had made ten of those tries. He added two more “made’s” to his season and sent Nichols down by four points with five seconds left.
Sam Horning made a desperate attempt to get back three of the points but missed and the GC celebrating began.
Getting the conference championship gives the Scots an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Gordon played in that tournament in 2006 (Utica) and 2010 (Middlebury) getting eliminated both times. Gordon’s opponent and the site of the game should be known tomorrow (Sunday). The game will probably take place at the end of the week.
The win over Nichols takes away some of the sting of last year’s loss in the same game at Curry. Watching the Colonels celebrate while Gordon team members looked on was rough. But on this day it was Gordon’s turn to celebrate their improbable win as the Nichols fans headed for the exits.
The efficiency stats reveal the obvious; Hans Miersma had an awesome game. The GC junior had his 13th double/double of the season in the biggest game of the season. His points and block in the last minute were crucial for the Scots.
Hans Miersma 24
Park Thomas 15 (13 points/8 assists)
Ryan Sheehan 14 (24 points)
Sam Horning 11 (14 points)
Jason Dempsey 10 (8 rebounds)
Alex Carnes 10 (11 points/4 assists)
What backfired for Nichols in the last 10+ minutes was opting to be more deliberate as well as taking off the press.
Gordon’s last CCC championship was in 2010 when they defeated Curry, 56-54, at the Bennett Center. Brady Bajema and Greg Walker (both from that championship team) were on hand for this one.
The crowd was loud and in the gym very early. There were late arrivers who couldn’t get in.
Coach Todd Murphy has now led two Gordon teams to conference titles in five years. If he keeps up the good work, maybe someday he’ll get his first CCC coach-of-the-year award……….that’s the sound of sarcasm you hear dripping!
Luke Hamilton reached double figures for the fifth time this season. I wondered why he was smiling as he took the two most important free throws of his GC career with five seconds left. His mother explained it to me afterwards, “He has a good sense of humor!”
Things I knew before the game that made me optimistic: (1) Gordon had won eight straight road games, (2) Gordon had been to the Big Game last year and Nichols had never been to a championship game, and (3) Nichols had struggled to win three of their last four games.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)