Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Adam Hunt
Sports Reporter / Columnist
Mercer slammed the door tight shut to complete a rousing 60-38 victory over Georgia-rivals Kennesaw State at the University Center.
A vocal crowd filled the arena and the Bears gave fans plenty of reasons to stay glued to their seats throughout the crucial Atlantic Sun Conference encounter.
The result marked the second-straight win for Mercer and pushed them to a 9-8 overall record and a 6-2 mark in Conference action. The Owls fell to 5-11 on the year and 2-5 in the A-Sun.
The visitors looked decidedly sluggish in the opening exchanges as the Bears ruthlessly took control thanks to some neat offensive play from senior guard Courtney Ford inside the key.
Junior Kourtney Carter also found her range early on, helping Mercer take the lead inside two minutes with a speedy layup.
With the difference breaking the 10 point barrier after only six minutes, the hosts did not take their foot off the gas.
They led by as much as 23 points in the first half before a mini-revival from the Owls in the closing passages of play saw the advantage reduced to 19 at the interval.
Kennesaw, to their credit, maintained this momentum at the beginning of the second period courtesy of consecutive treys by Angelina Smith and Montinique Nixon.
Even after a stern talking to from head coach Janell Jones during a time-out, Mercer’s slump continued as the lead dropped to just nine points.
It was Carter who stepped up to steady the ship, notching a further eight points to add to her first half tally of 10.
In the final few minutes the Bears began to expose a lack of fitness on Kennesaw’s part as they pressed home the advantage, extending the winning margin to 22 points.
Carter was Mercer’s highest scorer with 18 points, while the imperious Ford added 14 with four assists.
Caoch Jones was pleased with the result and the general performance: “I think we’re integrating people more. When you play as a team, good things happen.”
She also identified Carter as one to watch for the rest of the season: “It’s about what teams are doing to us with Courtney Ford and LaToya Jackson. We need a third scorer, and she has stepped up.”
Judging by this result, Mercer are certainly starting to put together an impressive run of form and could well be in line to cause a stir at the Conference Championships here in Macon this March.
By Adam Hunt
Sports Reporter / Columnist
1/21/2009 @ Stetson, W 69-57 (A-Sun Conference)
Mercer raced to a convincing victory at the Edmunds Center thanks to career-high efforts from sophomore Lacy Ramon in both points and rebounds.
Guards LaToya Jackson, Courtney Ford and Lindsey Lowrie all notched double-figures in points scored but it was Ramon who stole the show with 20 points, 15 rebounds and four steals.
Down 28-22 at the halfway point, Stetson began the second half brightly and clinched their first lead of the night.
However, the Bears clawed their way back and a scintillating 11-2 run late on finally put the Hatters to bed.
The win marked Mercer’s third straight and saw them improve to 7-2 in Conference action – their best start in A-Sun play since 1991.
Stetson, on the other hand, stared down their third loss on the bounce and dropped to 3-15 overall.
1/23/2009 @ Florida Gulf Coast, L 77-84 (A-Sun Conference)
Despite a determined late rally from Mercer, A-Sun hot shots FGCU ran out the winners at the Alico Arena.
Having been steamrolled in the first period, trailing by 28 at one stage, the Bears found their swagger in the second half.
Buoyed by improved numbers from the field, they scored eight unanswered points with just over five minutes left on the clock to reduce the home team’s lead to five.
To their credit, the Eagles held on solidly for a seven point victory and their second-straight win saw them improve to 9-1 in Conference action and remain perched atop the A-Sun standings.
Mercer sophomore guard Neicey Lewis scored a career-high 20 points over the course of the game, including 12 in the second half. Sophomore forward Lacy Ramon also tallied 20 points while senior guard Courtney Ford contributed 15 points to continue her rich vein of form this season.
The Bears are back in action at the UC against Stetson on Jan. 30 at 1pm. Don’t forget to pick up the next issue of The Cluster for unrivalled coverage of Mercer women’s basketball.
By Adam Hunt
Sports Reporter / Columnist
While the rest of us enjoyed our winter break, the Mercer women’s basketball team were hard at work, playing no less than nine games in three weeks.
Facing a potentially perilous six-game road stretch before Conference action resumed, the Bears were looking to maintain the solid form that had seen them race to a 5-3 early season record.
Here The Cluster takes a look back at the games that made the headlines over the holiday season.
(* Indicates Atlantic Sun Conference game)
12/19/2009 @ Oklahoma State, L 68-100
21 points from the mercurial Courtney Ford were not enough to stop Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma State from cruising to victory at the Gallagher-IBA Arena. Ford added ten rebounds to notch her sixth double-double performance of the season while sophomore point guard Lorin Hammer contributed a career-high 12 points off the bench. The win improved the Cowgirls to 8-2 overall while the Bears dropped to 4-4.
12/21/2009 @ Texas Tech, L 49-60
Courtney Ford found her form again in Lubbock, TX with 24 points and 12 rebounds, but a 14-6 surge from Tech inside the final five minutes proved decisive. The Bears stared down a third-straight loss, dropping to 4-5, while the Lady Raiders improved to 10-1 with their ninth win on the bounce.
12/28/2009 @ High Point, L 71-81
Mercer’s luck failed to improve in their first outing after Christmas with a 10-point loss to the Panthers. Courtney Ford lit up the court once again, leading all players with 29 points and 14 rebounds at the Millis Center. High Point showed some of the form that helped them overcome Florida in their previous game. The win pegged the Bears back to 4-6 and the Panthers jumped to 7-6.
12/30/2009 @ Winthrop, W 58-49
The Bears took to the court in Rock Hill, SC looking to close out 2009 with a victory and halt their four game slide. Courtney Ford and senior guard LaToya Jackson combined for 27 points and 11 rebounds in what was a scintillating team performance. Mercer also took one step closer to a positive record, improving to 5-6 overall, while the Eagles fell to 5-7.
1/2/2010 @ Jacksonville, L 57-72*
2010 failed to begin with a bang as Mercer dropped its first Conference decision of the New Year in Florida. Courtney Ford’s stunning season continued, however, as she tallied a career-high 31 points. 50 percent from the field was enough for the Dolphins to improve their A-Sun record to 1-2, while the Bears dropped to 2-1.
1/4/2010 @ UNF, W 54-48*
Lights-out defense from Mercer saw them notch a vital Conference win over North Florida in Jacksonville. Courtney Ford lead all scorers with 21 points as the Bears kept the Lady Ospreys at bay. The victory pushed Mercer to 3-1 in A-Sun play while UNF fell to 1-3.
1/7/2010 Campbell , W 64-52*
The Bears returned to the University Center and maintained their winning ways in Conference action against a lackluster Campbell outfit. Sophomore forward Lacy Ramon recorded her first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. 43 percent from the field pushed Mercer to a 4-1 A-Sun mark while the Camels dropped to 3-1.
1/9/2010 ETSU, L 81-60*
A determined ETSU performance kept Mercer quiet from the floor. 22 points and 20 rebounds from Siarre Evans helped the Lady Buccaneers light up the UC. 20 points from Courtney Ford was the high for the Bears as they fell to 4-2 in Conference play. ETSU continued their solid form, improving to 4-1.
1/14/2009 @ USC Upstate, W 57-53*
The Bears took to the road again and produced a much improved performance to get their Conference record back on track. Senior guards Courtney Ford and LaToya Jackson combined for 37 points while junior center Kourtney Carter contributed a double-double at the Hodge Center. With the win, Mercer moves to a 5-2 A-Sun record while the Spartans see their three-game win streak snapped and fall to 3-4.
By Adam Hunt
Sports Reporter / Columnist
While Mercer cycling may not be an official NCAA team, they certainly don’t pull any punches when it comes to professionalism or dedication to their sport.
Created just last year under the guidance of director Shaun Kell, Mercer cycling provides students with a love for life on two wheels a chance to practice and compete at a collegiate level.
The team is currently hard at work preparing for a packed spring schedule of events beginning in February at the Tundra Time Trials in Dallas, Ga.
The 8-strong mixed roster is made up of a clutch of Mercer students with varying experience of cycling. Kevin Roberts, for example, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, has notched up over three years in the saddle and could well prove to be an all important cog in the team’s wheel this semester.
Freshmen Gabe Denes and Alex Lockwood, on the other hand, are relatively new to the sport and will be looking to rack up plenty of road miles in the coming months.
With financial support from various local businesses, including Ingleside Village Pizza and Francar’s Buffalo Wings, the Bears are aiming to make their mark in competition.
“It obviously won’t be easy given that this is our inaugural season,” said senior cyclist Andrew Lockwood. “But we definitely have a good core group of riders who are working hard in practice to reach their goals. We are also grateful for all the support we have received to make this possible.”
Mercer will at least be easy to spot while they are in action thanks to their resplendent new orange and black jersey design for the 2010 season. They are set to compete in seven events this semester against top level competition such as Furman and Georgia Tech.
The team’s opening training camp of the year was completed last week with a 40 mile afternoon ride through North Macon. Roberts clinched the mountain stages while Denes created quite a stir at the sprint points along the ride. In all, five riders completed the ride, with two cyclists joining along the route.
All of us here at The Cluster wish Mercer cycling good fortune for their maiden season and we will keep you updated with their progress in later editions of the paper.
If anyone is interested in learning more about Mercer cycling or sponsoring the team, please visit their website at http://mercercycling.blogspot.com/.
Sports Reporter / Columnist
With seven influential senior players set to graduate at the end of the semester, Mercer baseball’s head coach Craig Gibson recently revealed his 2010 fall signing class.
There will be sizeable gaps to fill as pitcher Lath Guyer and several other starters move on to pastures new.
Seven athletes have signed national letters of intent for the Bears, meaning the roster will remain 32-strong.
The class includes five high school and two junior college graduates, with three outfielders, two infielders, and two pitchers.
Atlanta-native Derrick Workman is the first of the recruits. The 6’0’’ center fielder was a three-year letterwinner at Dominion Christian High School for head coach Bob McDaniel. Workman put together a dominant junior season statistically batting .667 with 46 hits, 12 home runs and 54 RBI in 25 games. He was also a GISA Class 1-AAA All-State baseball team selection and led his Dominion Christian team to a 30-2 overall record his junior season.
Daniel Cardwell is another Georgia standout from Wesleyan School in Norcross. The 6’3” outfielder led his Wesleyan team to back-to-back GHSA Class A State Baseball Championships in 2008 and 2009. Cardwell also has plenty of natural speed and can fill all three outfield positions if needed.
Lefty pitcher and outfielder Aaron Shipman joins the Bears from Quitman, Ga. where he represented Brooks County high school. A natural athlete, Shipman played in the National Showcase in Minnesota along with the East Coast Showcase. He was also named to the All-Region 1-AA first team in both 2008 and 2009, and was ranked in Top 180 players in the country according to perfectgame.org.
D.J. Johnson played under head coach Bob Owsley at Cook High School in Adel, Ga. The short stop and pitcher has a career high school batting average of .418 to go along with a .517 on-base percentage. From the mound, Johnson broke the single season strikeout record at Cook High during his junior season, striking out 148 batters in 2009. He was also named in the 2008 1-AA All-Region first team.
6’3’’ pitcher Brandon Barker is a right handed pitcher at Etowah High School in Woodstock, Ga. This past year he was named a 5-AAAAA All Region first team selection and was a starting pitcher on the Etowah squad that captured the 2009 GHSA 5-AAAAA Regional Championship.
Blaine Matthews is the only non-Georgia native making their way to Mercer this fall. He is starting shortstop at Cloud County Community College for head coach Greg Brummett in Junction City, Kansas. He was a 2nd team all-conference selection last year after hitting a team-high .383. Matthews also led his team in at-bats (167), runs scored (54), total bases (82) and hits (64).
The last of the seven recruits is Bronson Gagner from Lilburn, Ga. The towering 6’7’’ pitcher currently plies his trade at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Ala. Gagner appeared in 14 games overall last season, making five starts. He threw 40.2 innings allowing 21 earned runs, striking out 35 batters while touting a .267 opposing batting average.
Coach Gibson certainly seems pleased with the prospects of the signing class and is aiming high for the 2010 season. Speaking to MercerBears.com, he commented: “The young men in this class will help our program achieve its goal winning an Atlantic Sun championship. This group of student-athletes will enhance our program in all facets, while contributing to the quality of the Mercer community overall.”
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
We’re the forgiving kind of sports fans aren’t we? Time and time again we see our favorite sports heroes mess up, take a big fall on the public stage, hide away from the public eye for a while, and then return with an exclusive interview on ABC’s 20/20 or with ESPN’s SportsCenter to save face. This time it was Mark McGwire, the former slugger/juicer, who kept America on the edge of its seat in 1998 with his historic chase of the single season homerun record with Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.
It was a teary eyed affair that I remember clearly. I was sitting in the living room during that weeknight watching McGwire at bat against the Cubs as he hit that low flying homerun (#62) that just cleared the left field fence. He rounded the bases and the game stopped for a good fifteen minutes. Hugs were exchanged and all was right with the world for a short time.
He played three more seasons, extending his own record to 70 homeruns in one season, but then the steroid allegations came as his career came to a close. And then McGwire disappeared.
Nothing, nothing came from McGwire for almost a decade. Holed up in the private gated community of Shady Canyon in Irvine, California, McGwire played golf and passed the time in the seclusion of his own back yard. For all practical purposes, America’s baseball hero was never heard from again.
And then McGwire wanted to set things straight. Or maybe he got bored. Whatever it was, Mark McGwire, the bash brother that teamed up with Jose Canseco to blast homeruns in the 1990’s, decided to take the hitting coach position with the Cardinals for the upcoming 2010 season. With that announcement, McGwire spilled his beans to the media.
He even said the ‘L’ word…a feat that not even former President Bill Clinton could do. McGwire admitted that he had lied to everyone about his involvement with steroids in his playing career. It was the hot topic on sports channels and CNN for a good day or two. Images of a teary-eyed McGwire saying that he was sorry for what he did inundated the media for a good day or two.
Funny how a few years can soften up the hearts of the American people. We’re past, or possibly too permeated, with the steroids era and hold the attitude of ‘Why not accept the apology of the sports hero who lied to us?’ Isn’t an apology what we want after all?
It’s not that our favorite sports heroes lie to us personally, but it’s the fact that we feel as if our memories are betrayed by a Jekyll and Hyde type of character. Remember Tiger Woods leaving the golf course right after the round of a tournament? We thought he was practicing for the next day and the truth was far different. An apology would go a long way in mellowing the madness the general public has about their betrayed memories.
Alex Rodriquez did it. Kobe Bryant did it. Now it was Mark McGwire’s turn. Tiger will be next although his ‘Apology Press Conference’ isn’t schedule yet. We’re too passionate about our sports to just see our memories betrayed after tear-jerking moments. Apologies require humility, an asset that not many professional athletes can muster these days, but that ultimately pay huge dividends in the public eye. Let’s hope Tiger was taking notes from the McGwire interviews.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Beat Writer
It was the type of road trip a coach or player would like to forget. Near the top of the Atlantic Sun conference standings going into this weekend’s road trip against Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast, Mercer looked nearly unbeatable. They had defeated Jacksonville, Campbell, and East Tennessee State in January and were playing confident basketball until the Hatters and Eagles pulled upsets.
In the Friday night matchup against Stetson, the Bears trailed for the entirety of the nationally televised game, losing 76-69. Stetson’s 5-0 run to start the first half was the spark the DeLand-based team needed to get by the sluggish Bears. The Hatter’s (5-12, 3-6) win snapped Mercer’s five game winning streak.
“We had plenty of opportunities to get back in it,” commented Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman after Friday’s game. He added, “Got to give them credit, they got after us.”
Early fouls called on guard E.J. Kusnyer plagued the Bears as Hoffman benched Kusnyer after on 39 seconds of play to start the game. The move proved costly for Mercer as they would go on to shoot 18.5% from the perimeter (5 for 27) for the game. Free-throw shooting, also a strong point of Mercer’s game was less than accurate as the Bears made 14 of their 25 free throws from the charity stripe.
Meanwhile, Stetson kept pace ahead of the Bears extending their leads to as much as 14 points with consistent offensive games from A.J. Smith (22 points), Mark Lohuis (15 points), and Ridge Graham (15 points, 9 rebounds). Mercer’s James Florence would continue his long streak of double-digit scoring with 25 points on the night as Daniel Emerson would chip in 18 points and 9 rebounds.
Looking for a crucial victory to stay in the thick of the race at the top of the A-Sun, the Bears again dropped an important game in Fort Meyers, falling to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-13, 3-6) with a final score of 71-70. Late game heroics from FGCU’s Anthony Banks sealed the deal for the Eagles after a gutsy three-pointer was made by Kusnyer.
Statistically speaking, the game was a deadlock. Neither team capitalized the opportunities at the free throw line, shooting 12 for 20 respectively. The Bears held an early lead for most of the first half before FGCU fought back to reclaim the advantage with 48 seconds left. For most of the first ten minutes of the second half, both teams exchanged baskets to neutralize each other’s leads but it was the home team that really started rolling when they an eleven point lead with 12:21 left on a Kyle Marks jumper.
Late in the game, Mercer worked the Eagles’ lead down until Kusnyer’s big jumper, however FGCU had just enough time left on the clock to for an extensive offensive possession. Ultimately, the Bears fell short by only a point but the two losses on the weekend capped a disappointing run for Mercer after such a promising month in early January.
FGCU’s Kyle Marks would finish as the team’s leading scorer with 14 points, followed by Derrick O’Neil’s 13 points and Anthony Banks’ 12 points. Daniel Emerson would notch another double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Mercer. All five starters for the Bears would finish in double-digits.
After the game, Hoffman said on MercerBears.com, “We let one get away from us that we could have had. They played better than us for the majority of the game.” Senior James Florence added, “You can’t afford to not perform when your being counted on…that’s always going to equal a loss. We’ve got to pick to up.”
A midweek tussle with Kennesaw State will be the first opportunity for the Bears to redeem themselves before they match up again with Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast in the friendly confines of the University Center on January 30th and February 1st.