(Wenham MA) Welcome to the Gordon family, David Massillon.
The young man from Lynn and Pingree (Hamilton) moved from the “another-good-player” zone into the Wow zone.
David had twenty-three points (previous high nine) and eight rebounds (previous high six) and helped Gordon drop Johnson & Wales, 99-91, on Saturday afternoon.
The Scots (8-1) take a seven-game win streak into next week’s games with Eastern Nazarene and Framingham State.
This was another misleading final score. Gordon was up by twenty/plenty in the closing moments and opted for the “Blessed are the merciful” approach. JWU said “Thanks,” kept their starters in, pressed full-court, and narrowed the gap so quickly that Coach Tod Murphy had to return his starters for the closing seconds.
“I hated to put the starters back in and it’s my fault that the reserves didn’t do better against pressure,” said Coach Murphy. “Some of them just don’t get the reps against pressure.”
Minus the late-game closeness, the Scots once again put a lot of points together. They had fifty-six points in the first half.
Eric Demers finished with twenty-eight points and had twenty-four of them in a dazzling first half. He canned five-of-seven three’s.
The Wildcats (3-5) didn’t have a starter over 6’4”. “In the beginning we were exposing their bigs with Parker (6-10) and Garrison (6-6),” explained Jake Haar. “They couldn’t contend with the size.”
And then you add a red-hot Eric Demers to the mix. “When Eric is scoring like he was, it just opens up so many things,” said Jake.
In the win streak there have been moments in each game where GC has bunched points to gain sizable separation. Against Colby (Thursday night) it was late in the game. Today it was late in the first half.
At 5:58 Gordon led, 35-24. The next 3+ minutes were all Scots as they scored thirteen in a row.
While JWU missed seven shots and had three turnovers, Gordon got a dunk by Parker Omslaer and three’s by Eric Demers and Jake Haar both set up by Garrisson Duvivier.
The resulting, 48-24, lead was a mountain the visitors from Providence (RI) couldn’t scale.
Coach Tod Murphy loved the “W” but was a little disappointed with some of the offense he saw in the second half when his team had the 20+ point lead. “It’s human nature,” he said, “when you get a big lead like that to start thinking that ‘I can go ahead and get mine now.’”
Gordon’s use of a zone defense continues to stimulate plenty of discussion. No question, it is a work in progress. No question it looks exploitable at times. But so far it has thrown teams off from their normal ways of scoring points.
But the defense still needs work. “In terms of defensive effort, it wasn’t great,” said assistant coach Didier Dinh. “It wasn’t terrible but it’s not where we need to be for a long run this season.”
It’s the open three’s that seem to be driving the GC coaching staff crazy. “Near the end of the first half we left #0 (Donovian Maxfield) a couple of times because we didn’t get where we’re supposed to be,” said Coach Murphy.
“At halftime we told the guys that the score might as well be 0-0 because we gave them some life when we gave them a couple of three’s late in the half,” added Coach Dinh.
The defense may have flaws, but it still has been a plus in the 8-1 start.
UNE came out last season with a “fire up three’s” approach and it was new to the Commonwealth Coast Conference. They beat Gordon with it and even surprised Nichols with a win over them. But the coaches in the CCC are talented enough to prepare their teams to handle new schemes and adjust. UNE is off to a 2-8 start this season. Point? The GC zone must get better or it may eventually become a liability.
“The run so far shows that we have a good amount of talent,” said Coach Dinh. “The ultimate goal is to still be playing in March.”
Eric Demers had twenty-four points in the first half and the Wildcats’ Brian Hogan-Gary dropped twenty-five in the second half.
Eric feasted on one-on-one coverage, creating shots from almost any spot he chose. Brian (6’4”) attacked the Gordon big men and hustled for the full forty minutes.
The play of freshman David Massillon (6’4”) was exceptional. He was a handful for any defender near the basket. He also had the good touch to make 11-of-12 free throws. What’s not to like?
I checked in with Coach Murphy on why they were playing at home on New Year’s Eve afternoon. “There won’t be anyone here,” he conceded, “but I wanted a game before the league starts on January 3rd. I also wanted to do it as late as possible so that our guys could stay home longer.”
Plenty of “formers” in the house this afternoon. I saw Greg Walker, Dave Dempsey, Keith Krass, Jerry Logan, Jake Hart, Graham Tienhaara, and Sam Johnson. All are gainfully employed. Most of them liked what they were seeing of the zone defense.
Jake Haar on the team: “When we move the ball, we’re pretty unstoppable. We’ve got five starters that are unselfish.”
Jake Haar (from Californina) on the current New England weather: “I wear three jackets and a hat when I go outside.”
Jake told me that it was going to be in the 80’s in the part of California that he is from next week. He’ll be there for a week over Christmas.
Johnson & Wales will be hosting Nichols on Tuesday. The result will give us a comparative score before our two CCC matches with the Bison.
J&W are part of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). They were 19-10 last year and 28-3 in 2015-16.
I will be watching the next five games from Amesbury and Newtown. Lord willing I’ll catch the Endicott game on January 10th. The away league games (Jan 3rd UNE and Jan 5th Nichols) will be tough ones.
“We want to finish the semester strong,” said Coach Murphy. “Our league is going to be a title bout every single night.”
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)