Johnson fills Shepherd net with 20 first-half points
Was Shepherd senior guard Rachel Johnson out to prove she was worthy of the pre-game presentation where she received a game ball given her after scoring her 1,000th career point in the Rams’ previous game?
Whatever the reason for her dominating first-half performance in Shepherd’s 77-60 win over Wheeling Jesuit at the Butcher Center, Johnson scored a brilliant 20 points, going 8-for-12 from the field, including a 4-for-6 showing on three-point attempts, as the Rams inched ahead by seven points at the intermission.
Johnson was well on her way to her 1,100th point. And Shepherd, in a nifty turnaround from last season’s catastrophic losing season, was already at 12-4 overall and 9-1 as the clear leader of the Mountain East Conference.
Johnson had to share the first few miunutes of the opening half with teammate Alex Weakland, who scored a quick seven points in front of about 30 pom-pom waving people from her hometown area in Pennsylvania grouped together above the Shepherd bench.
Johnson and Weakland joined to score 29 of Shepherd’s 41 first-half points.
The Rams needed Weakland’s early-game points as well as Johnson’s 20 first-half points because the Cardinals made 7-of-8 free throws and had outrebounded Shepherd when the teams left the court at halftime with the Rams holding tightly to a 41-34 lead.
Fouls against both sides piled up in the second half. No matter, Shepherd clung to its hard-won advantage.
Johnson received some valuable scoring help from Cara Mason (12 points) and rebounded better to limit Wheeling Jesuit’s second-chance baskets. Shepherd claimed 23 second-half rebounds to the Cardinals’ 16.
Johnson attempted only five more shots from the floor, but she still added another six points to her scoring total, finishing the afternoon with 26 points in 27 minutes of playing time.
Toward the end of both halves, Shepherd was able to get inside and score or get fouled against the Cardinal halfcourt zone.
Shepherd remained as the only team in conference play that had but one loss. Both West Liberty and Fairmont had two losses in Mountain East play.
Johnson had been the quiet leader in Shepherd’s march past the Cardinals.
And she had made additional strides toward becoming one of Shepherd’s all-time points leaders.
With 12 conference games left on the fast-moving schedule, the Rams were to see Fairmont last night (Thursday, Jan. 22) in Fairmont before going to Institute to play West Virginia State on Saturday, Jan. 24.
When the West Virginia State game was concluded, the Rams would have been on the road for five of their last six games.
The folks from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania had seen Weakland do her early-game scoring. And they had seen Shepherd win again, meaning they might return en masse when the Rams close out the regular season with three straight home games in late February.