by Michael Vernetti
In his wisdom following Thursday’s win over BYU, the scribe wrote (about Jordan Ford):
“…it seems Ford is having trouble finding a role for himself on offense.”
And (about Calvin Hermanson):
“Hermanson fouled out after failing to guard [Elijah] Bryant effectively and going 1-4 on three-point attempts for a mere five points.”
In Saturday night’s cruise past Portland (72-55), Ford played like he had been shot out of a cannon. He picked Portland’s leading scorer Josh McSwiggan on the game’s second possession, and converted a lay-up at the other end of the court before McSwiggan figured out what had hit him.
Ford later sank a three-pointer against a soft Portland zone defense, then blasted down court again after a Naar steal to draw a foul and sink both free throws. When Gael Coach Randy Bennett relieved Ford with Cullen Neal at the 10-minute mark, the Gaels led 21-10, Ford had scored seven points and shut down one of Portland’s stars, Marcus Shaver, Jr.
Ford continued to find a major role for himself on offense, scoring 16 points by halftime and ending with 20 points, matching his career high.
Hermanson also strong
As for Hermanson, all he did was shoot 4-6 on three-pointers to score 16 points (second behind Ford) and shut down McSwiggan for a bagel: 0-5, including 0-3 on three-point attempts for the JC transfer from Leicestershire in the English countryside.
Do you suppose Ford and Hermanson had a joint reading session? No, of course not.
The first half was a showcase of how teams have struggled to defend the Gaels this season, primarily the lethal duo of Naar and Jock Landale. Portland has an excellent shot blocker in the 7-2 Phillipp Hartwich, and seemed content to leave him alone on Landale. Which worked, sort of. The problem was the four other Gaels whom Portland didn’t seem to think needed guarding.
Left alone, Hermanson, Ford, Tanner Krebs and Neal combined for 8-14 three-pointers in the first half, as the Gaels raced to an insurmountable 44-22 halftime lead. Landale had only three touches in the first half, making two shots and probably contemplating the damage he would do in the second half when Portland would tighten up its perimeter defense.
Didn’t happen, as Hartwich effectively moved Landale further from the basket than he likes, and Portland’s guards helped harass the Gaels’ big man. Landale got only a few more touches in the second half than he did in the first, and he didn’t make anything out of them: a fumbled dribble in the paint leading to a Portland run-out; strong defense by Hartwich on his usually effective up-and-under move; a mysterious foul that no one except the referee saw; then a strip by Shaver, who converted a jumper.
Landale was held under 10 points (six) for the first time since last season against BYU, and despite pulling down 11 rebounds missed scoring the double-double that has become almost commonplace. He got some rest, however, as Bennett subbed in Jordan Hunter and Jock Perry when the game became unwinnable for Portland, and Landale finished with “only” 31 minutes on the floor. For Bennett’s starters, that equals a mini-vacation.
Portland Coach Terry Porter, the ex-NBA star player and coach, has drastically revamped the Pilots’ roster in his second season, bringing in hordes of freshmen and transfers. Two newcomers, Shaver and his back court partner Jojo Walker, look to be keepers. Shaver is from Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, AZ, where he played for former NBA star Mike Bibby and led his team to an undefeated 27-0 record and a state championship.
Walker was a star at St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria, CA, leading his team to numerous CIF Southern Section titles and earning numerous all-league and all-section awards. One suspects that the slight stature that Shaver and Walker share — don’t believe the roster claim that they’re both 6-1 or more — might have kept them from more noted programs than Portland’s. Or maybe Porter is a great recruiter.
Walker gave the Gaels, particularly Naar, the most trouble, sinking five three-pointers for 15 points to lead the Pilots. Naar was victimized on four of those three-balls, as he couldn’t seem to bother Walker enough to upset his shot. Shaver had a tougher time against Ford, but still managed to score 12 points, including several in garbage time.
Walker and Shaver are good enough to displace Porter’s sons, ex-Gael Franklin and the younger Malcolm, as starters, although both Porters are excellent players. Franklin, who showed promise in limited minutes as a Gael two seasons ago, managed six points, while Malcolm, aided immeasurably by being guarded by the defensively-challenged Neal, totaled 12 points.
The Gaels have won 16 in a row — a school record — since dropping two games in the Wooden Tournament last November, and are chugging relentlessly toward a re-match with Gonzaga in Moraga on Feb. 10. No one on the team will admit that they’re looking ahead to that game, however, as they repeat the “one game at a time” mantra. Next up to test that theory is San Francisco on Thursday in Moraga.
Jordan Ford, shown above in an earlier game against Pepperdine, led all Gaels with 20 points on 6-11 shooting against Portland. Photo courtesy of Tod Fierner.