(Bristol RI) “A lot of these games come down to the last five minutes and whoever makes the plays wins,” explained CCC Coach-of-the-Year Mike Tully after watching his Hawks take Gordon out in the semifinals 67-66 at Roger Williams on Thursday night.
The last 5 ½ minutes of this one really did the Scots in. Up until that point Gordon never trailed. In fact, they even had a couple of nine point leads in the second half (38-29 at 17:35 and 40-31 at 15:35). While building up those leads Gordon played the way they had done in the win Tuesday night against Wentworth. However, if you recall the second half of the Wentworth game the Scots ran into a lengthy scoring drought but the Leopards were far enough behind that they couldn’t take advantage.
Gordon wasn’t as fortunate against Roger Williams. Hanging on to a 51-50 lead after an Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) free throw with 5:48 to go the Scots went pointless in five possessions over the next four minutes. Terrible timing because while Gordon missed, the CCC Player-of-the-Year Geoff Baringer didn’t. The 6-10 senior (29 points in the game) broke down defenders for a couple of layups and then delighted the home crowd by converting a missed free throw for yet another layup. Ryan McGinn added a couple of free throws at 1:37 to increase RWU’s lead to 58-51.
Aaron Trigg finally ended the scoring disaster with free throws at 1:28 to make it 58-53. It was still a two-possession game but junior Ryan McGinn took care of that with a three with 51 seconds left that Coach Tully could only describe as a “dagger.” That Ryan ended up doing so much damage (13 points and 3-for-4 on 3’s) to Gordon was surely a big surprise to a lot of folks since he came into the game averaging 3.6 points per game and was only shooting 19.4% (7-for-36) from long range.
Ryan’s three gave RWU an eight point lead (61-53) in the last minute and prevented Gordon from getting within one possession of the lead. The Scots did nail a trio of 3’s in the last twenty seconds but they were never shooting to tie or go ahead. Therefore, the final score, 67-66, is misleading because Gordon’s last long shot by Aaron Trigg was made at the final buzzer.
Roger Williams now travels to Curry for the championship game on Saturday. Curry became the #1 seed when they defeated the Hawks recently. “Of course we’d like to have the championship game held here (and it would have been if Western New England had defeated Curry tonight) but the players want another shot at Curry,” said Coach Tully. They will get what they wished for.
Coach Tully’s ability to elevate his team’s defensive effort in the second half was crucial. “We didn’t have anywhere near enough intensity defensively. They were doing whatever they wanted to. We put in a couple of guys with about 14 minutes left after a timeout and things changed defensively. A key player putting pressure on the ball was Travis O’Dell who hasn’t played in 2 ½ weeks.”
Coach Tully felt fortunate to beat Gordon. “I say it all the time – I think that Gordon is the best team in the league. Mike Schauer is a great coach. His teams are difficult to guard and they guard real well.”
The Scots end 18-9 overall with a 9-4 record in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Remarkable at home (How does 14-1 sound?) they won four and lost eight away from the Bennett Center. It may help that three of the CCC teams that beat them this year (Colby-Sawyer,Roger Williams,UNE) will be on the home schedule next year.
But any talk of next year opens up the topic of replacing the players the team is losing – Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT), Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME), Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME), and Keith Krass (Senior-6′2″-Beach Park IL). Good basketball programs are going to lose good players from time to time. Good basketball programs are also going to be able to rebuild around the players left. We’ve seen enough of Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA), Aaron Trigg, Ben Gaskill (sophomore-6′9″-Columbus OH), Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL), and Tim MacDonnell (sophomore-6′2″-Jericho VT) to be very optimistic about the future. Those players must, however, buy into the year-round dedication to basketball excellence that this year’s seniors bought into if that optimism is to turn into something special. It can be done.
This crop of seniors, pictured at the top of this blog with their families, will be badly missed. They’ve given us plenty of memories. I would assume that they would be on hand occasionally during next season to offer encouragement and support. I would assume that I would be asking them then what they’ve been doing. I’ll also probably be asking them how their parents are doing because I’ve gotten to know them over the past four years as well.
God has blessed me in my being able to be on hand, and later describe, most of the games Gordon has played over the last six seasons. I’ve been challenged often in sorting out the logistics that covering a game involves especially on the road. However, the experience has been stimulating enough so that I look forward to doing it some more next season.
Thanks again for the support and encouragement.