Preston gives Shepherd another dimension
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Through its first three games, Shepherd was unbeaten and had already found another useful dimension to its team.
When the Rams defeated Virginia Union, 78-68, last week, they received the usual contributions provided by Thomas Lang, Winston Burgess and Derek McKnight.
It was Shepherd’s sixth man — freshman Jon Preston — who had his third straight impressive game. Preston is not yet being compared with famous sixth men of basketball — John Havlicek, Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry or Ricky Pierce but so far this season his work has made the Rams just as proficient when he’s on the floor, and a starter is resting or in foul trouble.
Entering at the 15:28 mark of the first half, Preston began scoring immediately. He made his first two shots.
Shepherd was trading baskets with the Panthers, before a sprint of points near the close of the half pushed the Rams ahead, 39-32.
With Lang, Burgess and McKnight counting points, the Rams outgunned Virginia Union, 11-4, to begin the second half. Shepherd’s lead had been extended to 50-36. But the lean and hungry Panthers were not finished.
Preston made his presence felt again. Once again he made his first two shots, as the Rams parried with Virginia Union and maintained their working margin.
With about seven minutes to play, the Panthers made an all-out sprint themselves, bothering Shepherd’s rhythm and execution with a scrambling, backcourt zone press. Nine straight points came from the Panthers. Shepherd’s shrinking lead dipped to 69-59 from a 19-point spread only minutes earlier.
In the last minutes, Virginia Union tried to further disrupt Shepherd with a continuous “offense-defense” substitution pattern, but the Rams weathered the last efforts of the Panthers.
Shepherd had made 11-of-12 free throws and had only 12 turnovers and showed Lang with 23 points, Burgess with 16, McKnight with 14 and Preston with 13 in moving to 3-0 in the infant season.
Virginia Union, which had beaten Lock Haven and lost to Shippensburg, went to 1-2 overall and had yet to play a home game.
Preston again showed a useful court presence, shooting accuracy from the perimeter and a bouncy athleticism to combine with his quickness and jumping ability.