Large crowd helps Rams rally past Fairmont
A crowd of well over 1,000 in number — many in attendance to cheer on Shepherd’s four seniors in their last home game — was sitting with pent-up energy, just waiting to get loud as the Rams trailed Fairmont for much of the meaningful Mountain East Conference women’s game.
Fairmont led by nine points at the half. Fairmont led by 14 with about 15 minutes left . . . and it appeared the people in from Pennsylvania, Frederick, Potomac and California were going to be disappointed on Senior Day.
Trailing by 14 points, Shepherd coach Jenna Eckleberry threw an all-out, full court press at the smooth-striding Falcons.
The crowd’s explosive noise level was about to be unleashed.
In a matter of about a dozen minutes, the Rams outscored the suddenly unhinged Falcons by a 20-2 count and had turned a 61-51 deficit into a 71-63 lead.
Hundreds of people were standing, some shaking their pom-poms and others being as forceful as their lungs and clapping hands would permit.
Shepherd had made what turned out to be a conference-winning comeback when the scoreboard finally registered its 82-75 win and the din of those celebrating the work of the seniors was waning.
The Rams had completed their regular season with a 20-8 overall record and a 17-5 conference mark. The homecourt win over the team that had beaten them by 21 points on the road gave the Rams a shared championship with both Charleston and West Liberty, which also had 17-5 conference records.
Seniors Gabby Flinchum (21 points, six rebounds), Rachel Johnson (17 points, seven steals), Briana Vaden (11 points) and Alex Weakland (seven points in the second half, six rebounds and three steals) had played championship-winning roles in Shepherd’s long comeback move.
Cara Mason had scored all 10 of her points in the second half and reserve Morgan Arden had added her 12 points to the fire.
Fairmont’s 14 point lead had vanished. Turnovers — 12 in the second half — and Shepherd’s crowd-fueled drives to the basket and inside scoring from Flinchum took apart the carefully crafted Falcon lead.
And this was a Fairmont team that entered with a 21-6 overall record.
The Rams had ridden not only the exuberance of the Senior Day crowd but also their 13-for-16 showing from the foul line and 18-for-34 field goal shooting in the second half to the top of the conference standings.
Fairmont seniors Emily Lohr (24 points), Hailey Garrett (21 points) and Hallie Gunnoe (12 points) had their moments, but had their scoring efforts all but washed away by the Shepherd game-turning surge.
The crowd, especially those many from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania there to toast Weakland, savored the win while enjoying a large offering of food on the concourse just above the bleachers on the Shepherd side of the Butcher Center.
Now the Rams move to the relative silence of the conference tournament held in Charleston. There will be few Shepherd people in the stands trying to help the Rams win the school’s first-ever conference tournament championship.
But the vocal throng was in attendance this past Saturday. And their enthusiasm and raucous cheering helped the Rams jet past Fairmont . . . and win a share of the Mountain East Conference championship.