McDonald’s consistency helps Rams get tournament win
After limping to the regular season’s finish line, Shepherd needed someone to stand in the breach to end a two-game losing skid. If the Rams were troubled again with a loss versus Concord in a Mountain East Conference tournament opener, their season would be over, ending on a demoralizing and disappointing note.
Morgan McDonald brought his consistent rebounding and scoring to the forefront. After claiming eight rebounds and notching 14 points in the first half, McDonald was again masterful in the second half where he had another eight rebounds and 11 points. Shepherd knowingly followed his lead and dissolved Concord’s upset bid by scoring freely against any defense the Mountain Lions had in mind.
Shepherd’s 86-68 tournament victory brought the Rams their 20th win of the season, the first time that many victories had been found since the 1991-92 season. And the homecourt success gave Shepherd a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals when they face third-seeded Glenville in a 2:15 p.m. game in Charleston.
When the Rams had quickly overcome an early-game, seven-point deficit, they had revealed Concord to be a team with quality perimeter scorers but no dangerous inside players and no individual defenders of much value.
As the Rams steadily increased their first-gained lead, there was no defense in Concord’s bag that did much to slow them, much less put any stoppage to McDonald’s growing dominance.
McDonald’s influence was so immense that Concord managed only two offensive rebounds in a first half that had Shepherd getting nine more rebounds than the Mountain Lions and taking a 41-28 lead by halftime.
And Shepherd was showing reliable defenses that allowed Concord to attempt only two free throws. Only six turnovers were shown by the Rams.
McDonald had made six of his nine shot-attempts. Shepherd was 15-of-31 from the field and had missed only one free throw.
In the second half, Concord had Cam Shannon and Aaron Miller responding to the call that told the Mountain Lions their season was over if some previously hidden excellence weren’t soon found. Shannon and Miller’s double-duty brought Concord to within 49-42, but then McDonald established again his rebounding monopoly and his helpmates — Austin Cunningham, Brantley Osborne, Naim Muhammad and Marcus Pilgrim smothered the faltering Mountain Lions with their combined efforts and Shepherd jetted ahead by 15 points.
The final minutes had Shepherd increasing its lead. And increasing its McDonald-led rebounding dominance to 42-25 before the appreciative crowd of about 600 gave one final burst of applause for Osborne, a senior who was removed in the last minute.
Shepherd had swept its three games with Concord. It had gained a satisfying 20th win and had a Charleston Civic Center date quickly arranged with Glenville, a team it split two games with in the regular season. Both Shepherd and Glenville had 14-8 conference records.
McDonald had no equal in Tuesday’s match with Concord.
His 25 points and 16 rebounds were augmented by three blocked shots and three steals.
Shepherd was 20-9 overall. Concord was 8-21 overall.
Eight Mountain East Conference teams were grouping together in Charleston.
The Rams had shed the disquieting losses at the conclusion of the regular season.
And it was well-rounded Glenville that became the first hurdle to be cleared in Charleston if the Rams’ season were to continue another day.