Wise aside, Shepherd women set sights on Fairmont
When its leading rebounder was missing from Monday’s conference game against UVa.-Wise, Shepherd faced an adjustment to not only its starting lineup but also its player rotation.
Liz Myers had an ankle problem and couldn’t play in the Rams’ next-to-last regular season game.
Would Shepherd suffer through an important game without her consistent rebounding? Or could someone step in the breach and keep the team headed toward a first-round bye in the league tournament?
The breach was filled. And then some.
Senior Alex Weakland turned in her career game.
Weakland not only claimed 17 rebounds, she also scored a team-high 19 points as the Rams moved cautiously past the Cavaliers, 74-63, to remain tied with West Liberty for second place at the tailend of the 2014-15 Mountain East Conference regular season race.
It was Weakland doing the majority of the scoring when the Rams broke free from a scant 22-20 lead to get away to a 36-26 advantage by halftime. Rachel Johnson had provided a steady stream of points throughout the opening half.
Wise had been willing. But with only eight players in uniform, the Cavaliers tired some toward the close of the first half.
A zone defense had been instrumental in Shepherd keeping Wise away from the boards . . . and Weakland already had nine rebounds.
There was no need to change their defense in the second half, so the Rams again implemented the same halfcourt zone. And Weakland continued her rebounding and even increased her scoring.
Shepherd led, 48-34, with 12:53 remaining.
But the Cavaliers wouldn’t fade away. They scored inside . . . got back within 51-44 . . . and appeared to be ready for a definitive move at Shepherd’s shrinking margin.
Kristina Prange and Weakland made three-pointers. But in no time the more-than-pesky visitors had made Shepherd’s lead a shaky, 60-53, with just 6:22 remaining.
Weakland came to the forefront again. Her renewed scoring and several more defensive rebounds buoyed the Rams once more. And Shepherd claimed a double-figure lead that couldn’t be erased.
Johnson managed only two points in the second half but finished with 13. Gabby Flinchum, the starter at center in Myers’ stead, had 13 points and seven rebounds, while Cara Mason had eight rebounds and 15 points on 15 field goal attempts.
Shepherd had a 16-5 conference record — Charleston leads with a 16-4 mark — and a rejuvenated 19-8 overall mark.
Weakland had been the primer in Shepherd’s win, but the Rams need Myers back and healthy for their last game against Fairmont, just a stride behind the Rams at 15-6 in the league.