Lions maul Monks, close in on high GNAC seed

by Beacon Staff • February 18, 2009

bEmerson 73, St. Joseph's 57/b

The Lions dismantled St. Joseph's of Maine 73-57 on Valentine's Day, and are now in position to capture the second seed in the upcoming GNAC tournament. This is the second year in a row the Lions have a chance to grab one of the top spots, and though the storyline closely resembles last year's, the Lions are hoping to rewrite the ending.

"It sucked man," said junior guard Jeremy Shannon of the team's loss to Lasell in the tournament final. "We had a great season. I wished that we could have come out on top instead, but that's life."

After faltering in the championship game, things didn't get much better for the Lions, as the loss was compounded by the graduation of all-time GNAC Tournament leading scorer Will Dawkins and two-time All District Team member Ben Chase.

"Honestly, I didn't know [what would happen]" said Shannon, a marketing communication major. "We had lost three seniors that were three of our best players, and we had seven new freshmen. Honestly, I didn't know where we'd be."

Despite the doubts, the Lions began their 2009 season strong, coming out of the gates at a respectable 4-1, 1-0 in the GNAC. Then, midway through the season the Lions ripped off five wins in a row, improving their overall record to 9-3. More importantly, they established themselves as a force in the conference, running their GNAC record to a perfect 5-0.

Six weeks and seven wins later, the Lions sit at 12-5 in the GNAC, and are staring a number two seed straight in the face. All the Lions have to do is beat conference foe Rivier College on Saturday, Feb. 21, and they will claim the seed, as well as the right to host all games except a possible final versus the number one, Lasell.

"It's exactly where we envisioned it coming down to the wire," said sophomore center Brian Rouse, who led the team with 18 points against St. Joseph's. "Where we are right now, this is right where we imagined we'd be."

The marketing communication major's words rung true against St. Joseph's, as the Lions seemed to be as prepared as ever for postseason play, picking the Monks apart play after play, basket after basket. Up 15 after the first half, the Lions continued to work the Monks, and eventually won by a final score of 73-57.

"We go through all the stuff in the preseason, all the hard work, and it really comes down to this," said sophomore guard Tom Messinger of the final few games. "We're treating them like championship games."

Messinger, a marketing communication major finished with 17 points against the Monks, a game that Head Coach Hank Smith said was crucial for the team as they prepare for the playoffs. Still, there is room for improvement.

"Emotionally, this win helps us a lot because we beat one of the top teams in the league," said Smith. "It took a while to get here. We're not fully where we have to be, but were certainly getting closer."

Even so, the Lions remain confident, fully realizing they will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming GNAC tournament if at the top of their game.

"Everyone's been playing great," Rouse said. "Everyone's stepping up exactly when we need them to. When we're playing as good as we can, there's nobody that can stop us."

Despite a 79-68 loss to Lasell on Tuesday, Feb. 17, the Lions are still in a position to grab the second seed in the tournament. To Shannon though, that seed, though important, would only be a small step forward toward the Lions ultimate goal this season.

"As long as we keep up our intensity, we'll be fine," said Shannon. "We're set up perfectly for a run here. Anything less than a championship is a failure."

Win or lose against Rivier, the Lions' postseason begins on Tuesday, Feb. 24. The time of the game will be announced once seeding is finalized after the conclusion of the regular season.