There#039;s no place like home for these Lions

by Beacon Staff • December 6, 2006

Wheaton College 81

Southern Vermont 69

Emerson (3-3) 91

Sophomore guard Anthony Riemas braced himself for the rebound.

At 5 feet, 9 inches, Riemas is an undersized basketball player. He was also hobbled by shin splints, which meant shooting pains pulsed through his legs every time he put weight on them.,Emerson 76

Wheaton College 81

Southern Vermont 69

Emerson (3-3) 91

Sophomore guard Anthony Riemas braced himself for the rebound.

At 5 feet, 9 inches, Riemas is an undersized basketball player. He was also hobbled by shin splints, which meant shooting pains pulsed through his legs every time he put weight on them. But Riemas made up for his physical limitations with his hustle, and as the ball came down, it was Riemas leaping to grab the rebound.

That's when it happened.

As Riemas was landing, a player from Wheaton College pushed him in the air, sending him flying and crashing down on his back. His head whiplashed back, hitting the hardwood with a sickening thud, then bouncing and hitting again.

Riemas lay motionless on the court.

The game stopped for 20 minutes as an ambulance was called and Riemas was carried off on a stretcher. He now has a mild concussion and will not play until after winter break.

Junior Dan Pearl was all too familiar with what Riemas was going through.

Pearl, who still attends all Lions practices and games, has not played for the team in more than a year because of a concussion he suffered in 2004. Pearl said Riemas's injury brought back bad memories.

"It scared the hell out of me," Pearl said. "It was a pretty significant concussion."

Riemas's concussion added injury to insult in what was a flat first half for Emerson.

Down 10 points at halftime, the Lions rallied behind their fallen comrade and eventually took the lead.

But in the last two minutes, things fell apart, and Wheaton downed Emerson, 81-76.

The loss dropped the Lions' record to 2-3 on the season, a disappointment after a convincing win over UMass in the team's home opener the previous game.

Back at home and playing only their second game in the new gym at Piano Row, the Lions took their frustration out on the more athletic, if less cohesive, Southern Vermont University.

The Lions' first-half lead grew to 22 points and never dwindled to less than 12. In the end, it was a confidence boosting, 91-69 win, the victory evening their win-loss record at 3.

Freshman center Brian Rouse had another strong game, scoring 27 points in just 28 minutes played, and fellow frosh Jeremy Shannon added 17 on four of five shooting from the floor.

So far, Rouse has averaged about 18 points per game, and Shannon has averaged 10 while coming off the bench.

Head Coach Hank Smith was pleased with their early performance and said they can only improve.

"So far, they've been very good," he said. "I think they've come a long way since the first day of practice. We're not teaching them how to play basketball, we're teaching them our style and they should get better."

That style, a fast-moving offense designed to take advantage of the Lions' quickness and make up for their lack of size, was on display in both games. But junior co-captain Will Dawkins said the difference between the two games was simple.

"We played much better defense against Southern Vermont," Dawkins said. "We took advantages of their mistakes."

Smith echoed the same sentiment.

"We always try to force the tempo and Southern Vermont wasn't nearly ready for our pace," he said.

But both Smith and Dawkins agreed what separated the two games the most was simply the opponents level of play.

"We play one way," Smith said. "We made a few mistakes [against Wheaton] and good teams make you pay for mistakes," Smith said. "We lost some discipline and they hurt us."

The Lions' next two games will again be at home, a place where, in two games, their average margin of victory has been just less than 23 points.

The season, at least for 2006, will conclude with a road game against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next Tuesday. In that game, Dawkins is expected to surpass the 1000-point mark for his collegiate career. Smith said Dawkins was adjusting nicely to his new role as co-captain of the team.

"He's kind of a natural leader and on the court, he's doing a great job," Smith said. "He's led both with effort and inspiration."