Rams come to final crossroads with winning streak in hand
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Trending upward, Shepherd came to its final crossroads of the men’s basketball season with a much-needed four-game winning streak.
When a four-game losing skid in early January found the Rams with a 6-9 record, questions flew as to whether the team could produce a winning season or find a berth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference post-season tournament.
And when the Rams fended off Millersville — winning 84-83 — their record had moved to 13-12 overall and 9-10 in the league.
But there were three games to be played.
The conference East Division leader, Shippensburg, had to be played on the road. The Red Raiders already owned an 80-68 win over Shepherd at the Butcher Center. Another road game — at East Stroudsburg and its 16-8 overall record — found another steely opponent. Shepherd’s last regular-season game comes tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the Butcher Center versus troubled Mansfield, The Mounties were just 6-19 before this week, but had beaten Shepherd by one point at home.
Shepherd’s nearly-gone lead against Millersville was just enough to overcome a last-minutes plunge that saw nearly all of what was once an 18-point lead vanish in a flurry of turnovers and three-point baskets by the suddenly energized Marauders.
A late-game, fullcourt press exacted enough turnovers from Shepherd and uncontested shots for the fast-closing Marauders to nearly bring what would have been a shocking loss for the Rams.
With 8:12 to play, Shepherd held a 66-53 lead. With 5:14 showing on the scoreboard, Shepherd led, 70-59.
When Millersville brought out a fullcourt press, Shepherd was mostly unfazed for about three minutes. But then the double- and triple-teaming by the visitors quickly erased the Shepherd lead.
Even with 2:35 remaining, the Rams still held to a 74-68 advantage.
Millersville was getting points with every hard-won possession. In the final moments, Shepherd’s Thomas Lang made 1-of-2 free throws to move the all-but-gone lead to three points. A Millersville three-point basket would bring a tie.
But there was no successful three-point shot — only a tip-in with less than a second left, which kept the Rams ahead by one point at 84-83.
The game had ended. There was no smoke to clear, but in the jangled aftermath, Shepherd had used the 16 second-half points from Lang and the double-figure scoring of Daniel McClain-Corley, Jon Preston and Kyle Daggett to move a significant win streak to four games, and make the road games at East Stroudsburg and Shippensburg tinged with importance.