BEVERLY — It was an earn-every-point kind of game when the Endicott men's basketball team battled rival Gordon last night.
The host Gulls literally left their blood on the court and left with a satisfying 68-62 win in a Commonwealth Coast Conference showdown.
Endicott senior Erik Callo, who has dealt with injuries all season, finished with nine rebounds and five blocks in a gargantuan performance to help hold off the visiting Scots, who were settling for jump shots and collecting long, offensive rebounds throughout the second half.
Gordon had jumped out take its first lead early in the second half, but Endicott was able to rally and hold on for its third straight win and fifth in the last six games. Both teams move to 5-2 in the CCC.
On his biggest sequence of the game, Callo pulled down a defensive rebound at the three-point line despite taking an inadvertent elbow to the jaw. Minutes later the big man finished off an and-1, wiped the blood from his face and drained the free throw to give Endicott a nine-point lead with three-and-a-half minutes to play.
"You really want to see that happen for a senior," said Endicott head coach Phil Rowe, his team now 10-4 overall. "(Callo's) had to battle through some adversity this year, but in our league he's probably as good as there is."
The man who set Callo up for the layup, Lance Greene (16 points, 5 assists), was equally as effective for the Gulls in the second half. A top talent, Greene has been weathering the injury storm as well, but last night the junior from Dorchester produced big buckets late to seal the victory. His dribble-drive breathed life into an otherwise stagnant halfcourt offense that looked lost at times, due to tremendous pressure from the Gordon defense.
"We played our basic (man-to-man) defense in the second half, just with a little more intensity," explained Gordon (6-8) head coach Tod Murphy. "They made the necessary adjustments and got us in the end."
Aside from going 6-of-7 from the charity stripe in crunch time, Greene used his quickness to penetrate and connected on some floaters and pull-up jumpers in the lane to finish with 14 second half points.
"He's one of the best players in the league — and that young man has not been healthy yet this season," Rowe said of Greene. "He really showed his courage (tonight). He's hurt from nose-to-toes; it just shows the quality of his character."
After trailing 29-26 at halftime, Gordon came out of the break firing and, unlike the first half, connecting on its jump shots. The Gulls went to a 2-3 zone, but some long-range shooting by Gordon's Shaun Roach, Cooper Meyer, Park Thomas (16 points) and Luke Hamilton forced Endicott to switch to a 3-2 zone to create more pressure on the perimeter.
Endicott rotated back-and-forth between zones the rest of the game and when the
Gordon shots stopped falling, Endicott was able to regain, then extend its lead.
"We did a better job of containing the ball and made them make plays," Rowe said of Gordon. "They had quality possessions and hit quality shots, but on the flip side we had quality possessions and hit quality shots."
Rowe had high praise for Gordon and its junior captain, David Dempsey (13 points), who did all he could to keep Gordon close the entire night.
"Dempsey really brings it every night. He's their emotional leader and played his heart out for them," said Rowe. "He's such a terrific player. It's great to play against quality players."