Johnson has pivotal role in win, Flinchum returns
It wasn’t too long into the Shepherd vs. Notre Dame women’s basketball game when the Rams’ Rachel Johnson scored seven straight points to give her team an early 18-11 lead. That spree of offense seemed to be an indication of what kind of effect Johnson was going to have on the game between two of the Mountain East Conference’s better teams.
When the afternoon had been completed . . . and Shepherd had won, 76-71 . . . Johnson had registered a game-high 23 points, doing it efficiently by making 10 of her 14 shots, including 3-of-5 three-point tries. She had secured five rebounds, made three steals and been credited with three assists.
At several points during the day’s flow, the action could have accurately been described as “Johnson and Johnson and Johnson”, so important to Shepherd’s fate was the senior guard.
With about 10 minutes left in the opening half, Shepherd senior center Gabby Flinchum, who had missed the season’s first 10 games with a leg injury, entered — giving the team an immediate inside threat with her scoring and rebounding. The Rams were always in danger of not finding enough weapons to stave off the visiting Falcons and their do-everything team leader, Martha Nagbe.
Shepherd held a scant 40-36 at the half when it had made 53.3 percent of its field goal attempts.
When seven minutes had been played in the last half the Rams had a 53-46 lead as Morgan Arden and Liz Myers provided points.
Even though it was always nagging the Rams with Nagbe and its poised group of players, the Falcons would always miss a crucial free throw or two.
Shepherd led, 61-52, with 9:19 to play.
And when the Falcons crept even closer, they were stung by the four straight missed free throws from center Kelsey Miller.
As Shepherd managed to maintain its short lead, Notre Dame could never get any closer than the 73-69 deficit it still had around its neck because of its albatross-like free throw shooting.
Shepherd had made 51.9 percent of its field goal attempts and 13 of its 17 free throw tries.
The Falcons had made only 37.3 percent of their field goal efforts and a telling 50 percent (13-of-26) of their free throw attempts.
Free throw miseries are very unusual to find with women’s teams at any level of college play.
But Notre Dame needed only to look at the free throw column to see why it was carrying a loss by bus all the way back to South Euclid, Ohio.
Flinchum had played 17 minutes in her return. She scored eight points and had seven rebounds.
The Rams were 8-3 overall and had a conference-leading 5-0 record within the league.
In the first few minutes, Johnson had risen to the top of the list of important actors playing in Saturday’s game. She stayed at the top as the foremost player . . . and Shepherd managed a five-point win because of her