Mar 3, 2009

Flames blown out by VMI, bounce back with key road win over Radford

by Axel Cerny

After Tuesday’s brutal loss against VMI, the Flames headed an hour up the road and bounced back strong against a tough Radford squad. The Flames crucial 92-85 road victory on Saturday night inside the Dedmon Center secured Ritchie McKay’s squad a No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big South Tournament and a first round game against No. 6 seed Gardner-Webb inside the Vines Center on Tuesday night.

They were once again shorthanded, playing without starting point guard Jesse Sanders for the third straight game, but that did not seem to matter much on Saturday.

Curry led the Flames in scoring with 25 points, followed by junior Kyle Ohman who contributed 24 points, 22 of which came in the first half.
Ohman started the game off with a three-pointer, staking the Flames to a quick 3-0 lead. Shooting was the name of the game on Saturday. Liberty hit 50 percent of all their shots (25-of-50) from the field. This game marks the tenth time the Flames have topped the mark this season.

Unlike last Tuesday’s game against VMI, the Flames’ style of offense was efficient. Radford’s defense was not as pestering as VMI’s, and as a result Curry performed like his usual self. Radford big man Artsiom Parakhouski tallied a career-high 39 points to lead all scorers, while also recording 19 rebounds. Despite his great performance, it was not enough to lift Radford to victory.

In the final two minutes of the game, it seemed as if the Flames were poised to run away with a victory, but Radford would not go down without a fight. Kenny Thomas, who finished with 23 points for the Highlanders, hit two late three-pointers, cutting the deficit to single digits both times. Just like Parakhouski’s 39-point explosion was not enough, neither were Thomas’s late-game heroics.

Smith finished with a season-low of seven points. He attempted only seven shots all evening, five of which were three-pointers, none of which he connected on. However, it was a fast break Smith dunk with 56 seconds on the clock that sealed the deal, as the Flames held on for the win.

Radford falls to 18-11 on the season, 15-3 in Big South competition. With the win, the Flames improve to 21-10 on the season.

In what was looking to be an exciting, fast-paced game for the Flames last Tuesday night, whose first points came off a Brolin Floyd dunk, the tables turned for the worse as the Keydets of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) punished them on Senior Night, 109-72.

This was the second of two meetings between the two teams this season, the first back in January in which the Flames were victorious, 91-80.

The VMI game marked the Flames’ second straight game without the services of starting point guard Jesse Sanders. Perhaps it was his absence that had such a major effect on their play. But mostly, it was the Keydet offense, which ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring offense at 94.3 points per game.

The duo of Chavis and Travis Holmes, who are identical twins, combined for 46 of VMI’s 109 points. They have been left to assume the leadership role after the departure of former Keydet star Reggie Williams. Together they shot 50 percent (7-of-14) from three-point range, which was instrumental in helping them maintain and stretch their lead as the game progressed. They both led the team in scoring, followed by guard Austin Kenon who contributed 17 points.

Arguably the most prolific name currently in baseball admitted to the use of performance-enhancing steroids this month, casting a shadow of doubt and skepticism over the last decade of record-breaking achievements by major league stars. But, when President Barack Obama was asked about the exposure of Alex Rodriguez’s cheating in his first press conference as president of The United States, he said,
“The thing I’m probably most concerned about is the message it sends to our kids.”

Children, adults and even college athletes have nicknamed him A-Rod and looked up to him as the most fearsome hitter in professional baseball, but as they watched him sit down with ESPN’s Peter Gammons on Feb. 9 for a 30 minute one-on-one interview, most could not restrain from thinking of his new nickname, A-Fraud.

In 2001, Rodriguez signed the biggest contract in major league history with the Texas Rangers, earning him a plush $252 million. In a recent interview, Rodriguez cited this circumstance as a cause for his mistake.

“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” Rodriguez told Gammons.

So, what about those who are already beginning to feel that pressure?

There are hundreds upon hundreds of minor leaguers, who have spent years staying at rickety hotels and making small change, just dreaming of their shot to step on a Major League diamond. They are feeling the pressure. But even more so, what about the thousands and thousands of college athletes who would give anything to keep playing baseball or any sport for pay once their four years of college eligibility are up. At Liberty, a small group of those players on campus compete athletically at the top collegiate level in Division-I NCAA sports.

One of those athletes is senior third-baseman and pitcher, Cody Brown. Brown is in his final year of college eligibility at Liberty and would obviously love nothing more than to take his game to the next level.
Oddly enough, Brown’s high school baseball coach also coached Rodriguez when A-Rod was in high school. When Brown was in eighth grade, Rodriguez came and spoke to Brown and his teammates encouraging them in baseball and giving them, as Brown remembered, a real example of success. Unfortunately, that example has been tarnished for Brown and millions of others who watched the great baseball star fall from the sky.

When asked about how A-Rod’s admittance of the use of steroids impacts the college players here at Liberty, Brown said, “Personally I don’t feel the pressure, and I can tell you the team here doesn’t.”
But Brown did say that he would suspect there are definitely those out there in college who are using illegal performance enhancing substances.

“Hopefully college kids are able to keep things more in perspective,” he said. But in the minor leagues, Brown admitted that steroids have gotten to be a big issue. With no other career options in sight for most of those players, they have got their eyes open toward whatever it would take to get them into the major leagues.

With all the negative effects to the body that we have learned steroids can cause, parents can only hope that when their children go to bed and dream of a future baseball career, A-Roid isn’t their inspiration.

Contact Axel Cerny at
axelcerny@gmail.com.

 


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