Rams grind out sixth straight win
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Better late than never.
Shepherd had seen Bloomsburg take away its scant lead. The Rams had managed only 14 points in an increasingly arid third quarter where they had but 14 points.
The glossy five-game win streak appeared ready to be Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference history.
But in a fourth quarter that little resembled the game’s first 30 minutes, Shepherd found enough team defense to basically refuse to lose.
Scads of fouls took control of the limelight. Free throws became the focused area of importance. And Shepherd made the most of its frequent trips to the foul line, converting seven of its eight free throws in the fourth period. Then came a hushed moment that quieted the large crowd as the last seconds hustled off the scoreboard clock.
Shepherd desperately clung to a two-point lead. Bloomsburg had an out-of-bounds possession right near its bench. Only 4.5 seconds were left. After a timeout, the Huskies in-bounded the ball and were immediately under duress as any planned play had broken down.
As the Huskies struggled, the last seconds fled off the clock without Bloomsburg even getting a shot of any kind.
Shepherd had won, 75-73, to remain near the top of the East Division standings, and continue its winning ways just when it appeared it could lose in scenarios that would have disappointed about 627 patrons in the announced crowd of 657. The Rams had outpointed the Huskies, 19-13 in the last quarter. Their late-game free throw accuracy and team-wide attention to defense had been just barely enough to overcome a 41-27 rebounding disadvantage. Again, as has been the case in nearly all of Shepherd’s 22 games, the combined scoring of center Sydney Clayton (25 points, 10 rebounds), guard Marley McLaughlin (20 points) and guard Abby Beeman (15 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds) had scratched out another whisper-thin win.
Clayton, McLaughlin and Beeman combined for 22 of Shepherd’s 27 field goals.
Leaving the tense, uncertain-to-come victory, Shepherd had a 17-5 overall record that included an 11-5 league record. Bloomsburg, which also lost to the Rams at home, was left with a 10-11 overall mark and a 7-10 league showing.
The Rams had been late-bloomers in their latest success. And instead of hand-wringing in the final 4.5 seconds, they could trot off the noise-filled court with another win that left them within a game of the division-leading shadow of Shippensburg.