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Urbana saves its Johnson for last minutes

By Staff | Feb 16, 2014

DeVonyea Johnson was like the captain of a sinking ship and Lexie Taylor was like her lieutenant as they saved Urbana from losing a critical game to fast-reeling Shepherd. Those two scorers ignited an Urbana cannon charge that was enough to pass the Rams in the last minutes of an 86-81 win for the hard-pressed Ohio team.

The Blue Knights were stationed near the top of the Mountain East Conference women’s standings when they came from central Ohio to see Shepherd’s troubled two-game winners.

Shepherd led early as its own Johnson (Rachel) jumped the Rams to an immediate advantage. When junior center Gabby Flinchum began an uncapped round of scoring and defensive rebounding, Shepherd moved to a five-point lead as the first half ended.

Nobody in Shepherd’s corner of the Butcher Center was overly excited. Nobody was counting any chickens before they hatched.

Even when the Rams stayed in front through the first 10 minutes of the second half, the applause was polite and the mood was still one where fans waited cautiously for Urbana to move past what Shepherd had accomplished.

When the Blue Knights got a lucky three-pointer that slammed through the net off the backboard, Shepherd’s short reign in front was over.

Shepherd’s earlier control was soon gone . . . gone to an 18th loss against only two wins. Urbana hadn’t defended well and hadn’t put much emotion into its afternoon, but it had Johnson and Taylor to guide it home. Shepherd’s Johnson (12 points) and especially Flinchum had their fingers in the proverbial dike for about 30 minutes, but even Flinchum’s career high 28 points and robust 14 rebounds were not enough to keep the Rams from losing their ninth straight game.

When Urbana’s best-player-in-the-game Johnson came back from a silent stint on the sidelines with foul troubles, there were about nine minutes left to play. She scored nine of her 23 points in those final minutes. Taylor, who kept Urbana afloat while Johnson was lashed to the bench, was the reliable lieutenant whose leadership was necessary when the captain was unavailable.

Cara Mason, who had missed the previous game, helped Shepherd’s paltry rotation with nine points and four rebounds in her 21 minutes.

DeVonyea Johnson stood tall with her all-round talent and influenced the outcome almost more than the combined input of the other 17 players who participated.

Shepherd had another loss because its thin defenses and lack of production from its four forwards were eventually passed by the Johnson-pushed Blue Knights. Flinchum’s near-heroics were trumped by DeVonyea Johnson’s all-conference abilities and her unwillingness to lose the game to the 11th place Rams.