Tough to swallow

by Beacon Staff • March 1, 2006

The first is when a team is simply overmatched and can't compete. There is never any shame in that kind of loss, as most people can say they played their best.

The second is when a team doesn't play well or leave everything on the table, when a squad doesn't reach its full potential.,There are two types of losses in a sporting event.

The first is when a team is simply overmatched and can't compete. There is never any shame in that kind of loss, as most people can say they played their best.

The second is when a team doesn't play well or leave everything on the table, when a squad doesn't reach its full potential.

The players might walk away from the game thinking "what if?"

The Emerson men's basketball team did not play like champions last Saturday, and the players know what that second kind of loss is like.

The Lions might have been tired from the long ride up and a thrilling game against Emmanuel last week, but this wasn't a throw-away game.

This was the biggest match of the year. This was what drove the team all season long to get back to this stage.

Once it got there, the Lions did not play like it could have. Emerson just didn't have it on that day.

In some instances, players were nothing short of dominant with defense and shooting.

Norwich was able to remedy those actions too many times, however.

It's not as though the team was blown out of the water.

Norwich was good, but Emerson proved it could beat the rival at Norwich's home arena because the Lions did on Feb. 4.

However, this was simply a case of a team not being able to get over the hump on that day. There were times where Emerson was simply out-running and out-gunning Norwich.

During one stretch, for example, Will Dawkins looked like he was going to take control of the contest. He scored eight consecutive points for Emerson.

Norwich also had a chink in its armor: turnovers.

The Cadets had 22 to the Lions' 16. Emerson was able to mount a 22-9 run to cut Norwich's lead to eight with more than six minutes left to play.

At one point, the Lions were running circles around the Cadets in the open floor. Emerson wasn't lacking talent.

But the Cadets' run at the end of the first half killed the Lions.

Norwich had the lead 29-25, and Emerson appeared on its way to making it a close game-until the next 14 points were scored by the Cadets, including a three pointer at the buzzer.

The Lions looked like they were actually trying to give the game away, committing five turnovers and missing every shot they took from the field and the free throw line.

It certainly wasn't the best basketball they've ever played or the worst. The Lions overall played well.

The only problem was Norwich played great. Great will usually beat good. A championship game is not the time or the place to perform just well.

Emerson could have packed it up and left, but they didn't. I'll give the squad one thing, they don't care what anyone else thinks. Never had all season.

It didn't matter to them what opponent it was facing or anything else of that nature. The Lions wanted to win.

Until last Saturday, it was doing a good job at it.

They thought they were champions and didn't stop until the final buzzer.

There were moments in the second half where they could have walked away with the game, but they did not.

When they were down, they never gave up. That 22-9 run cut the lead down to eight and Emerson had a chance to take it again. They were running on all engines and looked like they were not stopping.

But unfortunately, that was when they did stop. They were trailing by 11 to eight points for most of the second half.

They could see the top of the mountain; they just couldn't get over it.

Blame the referees for blowing a lot of crucial calls, two of which could have changed the game. Or for that technical foul called against head coach Hank Smith that resulted in four Norwich points.

Whatever the reason might be, Emerson did not play the full 40 minutes to be champions. They played steller basketball for 33:30. It was that 6:30 that did it.

Emerson earned its place at the game, but not to win it.

That being said, I'm sure it was a long ride home to civilization for the men's squad, the whole time, thinking "what if?"

Mark Meagher is a broadcast journalism major and the sports editor for The Beacon. His e-mail address is Mark_Meagher@emerson.edu.