Close losses cost Rams NCAA bid
When it was near the end of its schedule, and the record read “19-7”, Shepherd had aroused hopes that had been slumbering alongside Rip Van Winkle for more than three decades. No Shepherd team had qualified for any NCAA tournament berth since the mid 1970’s.
This Shepherd team was ranked fifth in the Atlantic Region, a region where eight teams qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament.
Regular season games were left against West Virginia Wesleyan (at home) and Fairmont (on the road). Later, the first-ever Mountain East Conference tournament would be held in Charleston.
In too-quick order, the Rams lost to West Virginia Wesleyan and then fell, 74-72, in Fairmont.
The record was 19-9, yet the Rams were still ranked seventh in the Atlantic Region.
In the opening round of the Mountain East tournament, Shepherd defeated Concord to the reach the 20-win plateau for the first time since 1992.
In the quarterfinals of the tournament, Shepherd faced Glenville, a team it had split two regular season against. A Shepherd win over Glenville would likely give the Rams that long-elusive berth in an NCAA tournament.
But Glenville prevailed in the waning seconds, prevailed by the same 74-72 score that had visited in the loss at Fairmont.
There had been three losses in the final four games.
Nobody from NCAA headquarters called Shepherd. The tournament drought continued.
In the Atlantic Region tournament, it’s East Stroudsburg as the host team. The Warriors have just one loss and the championship of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament as credentials.
The No. 2 seed is West Liberty, the once high-flying Hilltoppers were beaten by Charleston in the finals of the Mountain East tournament, thus falling from the top ranking they had held all season long.
Indiana (Pa.) holds the No. 3 seed and Charleston is seeded No. 4.
Gannon (Pa.) was given the No. 5 seed with West Chester (Pa.) at No. 6.
Glenville, which lost in its next conference tournament game after tripping Shepherd, has the No. 7 seed and the winner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Livingstone, is seeded No. 8.
In first round games at East Stroudsburg, it will be the host Warriors against Livingstone, West Liberty facing Glenville, Indiana playing West Chester and Charleston going against Gannon.
West Liberty has won the Atlantic Region the last three years. The Hilltoppers hosted the tournament in all three of those seasons.
Shepherd completed its season with a 20-10 record and a pair of two-point losses at the end to contemplate and finally digest as the reasons it is not in East Stroudsburg for the Atlantic Region.