(Wenham MA) Don’t let that final score fool you.
Western New England led by a point (74-73) with 2:38 left in this game. The outcome was anything but certain.
But the Scots (14-7) were offensively efficient down the stretch and posted a, 84-77, win on Saturday afternoon at the Bennett Center.
Special day for the Gordon faithful as the Scots four seniors (Jaren Yang, Steve Vampatella, Jake Hart, and Graham Tienhaara) were honored.
Traditionally, the Gordon seniors start on Senior Day. That put first-time starters Steven Vampatella and Graham Tienhaara out there to open the game.
The senior foursome plus Eric Demers got off to a terrific start. “I thought that Gordon came out with terrific energy,” said Western New England coach Colin Tabb afterwards.
By the time Graham Tienhaara went to the bench, he had six points and Gordon had a seven-point lead. “Graham got us off to a great start,” said Gordon coach Tod Murphy.
Behind Eric Demers’ twenty-point first half the Scots were ahead, 48-38, at halftime.
Sixteen days ago, the Golden Bears (8-12) routed the Scots, 101-83, in Springfield so you had to expect that they would make things interesting in the second half. And they did.
Mikey Pettway had thirty-one points and scored his 1000th point in the previous meeting. This time around Mikey was off (13 points) but freshman EJ Day (28 points) more than made up for it.
“EJ Day is going to be a load to go against over the next three years,” said Coach Murphy. EJ, like Mikey, displayed the ability to get shots off from anywhere despite being 5-10. EJ made three’s and showed his quickness getting to the rim.
Gordon led by sixteen (60-44) with 16:44 left. But WNE didn’t go away. Over the next 6+ minutes they overwhelmed the cooled off Scots.
An 18-2 run evened the teams at 62-62. We had ourselves a ballgame!
What happened during that stretch? Gordon made one of nine shots, including five three’s, and had three turnovers. Then there’s Western New England: The Bears made seven of thirteen shots, with three of those seven baskets coming after they had grabbed offensive rebounds.
Gordon recovered to regain the lead but could never push their margin past three points. Finally the Bears caught GC and went ahead (74-73) with 2:38 left on two EJ Day free throws.
The rest of the way: “We made the plays we had to,” said Coach Murphy. Eric Demers immediately made a three to give GC the lead for good as it turned out. But there was also a key layup by Garrisson Duvivier in the last minute assisted by Jaren Yang. Free throws were crucial and Jaren, Eric Demers, and Jake Hart made them. Actually, Jake missed one but miraculously the ball stopped dead on the back of the rim with fifteen seconds left. That’s a jump ball and the possession arrow favored the Scots. So Jake’s missed shot gave Gordon a fresh possession.
Eric Demers put up a career-high forty-one points with twenty in the first half and twenty-one in the second half. In this breakout season, Eric has been able to get off shots against defenders of all sizes and speeds and shoot over 50% in twelve of the games.
Junior Garrisson Duvivier had his 15th double/double of this season. He had sixteen points and fifteen rebounds.
Ahead is a neighborhood battle with Endicott on Wednesday night (7:30PM) in Beverly. The winner of that game will be in second place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference behind Nichols. In the previous Gulls/Scots matchup it was GC winning in overtime. Realizing how hostile the atmosphere can be at Endicott, it would behoove the Scots to defeat the Gulls and avoid having to play a tournament game in Beverly.
Two concerns in this game (for me) were the squandered lead and the twenty turnovers. Players not named Eric and Garrisson need to lighten the scoring load on those two to prevent point-droughts when either of them cool off. This afternoon’s twenty TO’s was the third time it has been that high. The other two times were losses. The Bears’ pressure had no part in the turnovers. It was the passing. Too many high-risk attempts.
Nice gathering afterward to hear the coaches retell the exploits of the four seniors. The players will be missed.
Three weeks from now I could be writing about Gordon’s third CCC title in the last eight years. Hope so.
Jaren Yang collected his 4th career block this afternoon for those keeping track at home!
“I was hoping to get Steve and Graham back into the game at the end, but it was so close,” said Coach Murphy.
“Gordon took us out of the normal flow of our offense today,” said Coach Tabb. “They didn’t leave certain shooters and it kept us from getting clean looks.”
“Good teams have to win tough games like this one,” said Coach Murphy.
Gordon has won ten of their last twelve games.
Gordon has now won nine of their last ten games with Western New England.
Western New England had a win over top-ranked Nichols at Nichols in early January. They meet again in Springfield next Saturday.
Eric Demers 30
Garrisson Duvivier 28
EJ Day 23 (28 points)
Tim Reilly 17 (15 points)
Western New England 70
Box from the game
(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)