Tribute to record-setting 1976 Shepherd team this Saturday
Rodney Sewell scored 891 points that season alone. Mike Philippi had well over 300 assists and was resistant to pressure. Charlie Rideout averaged over 15 points a game after transferring to Shepherd from George Washington.
Chuck Hipp never said much, but he scored well and had a certain understanding of the game. Larry Boomer was in his fourth year as a starter and was the team captain who would later be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Gilbert Allen was as cerebral as Hipp and he could rebound.
Chip Reklis, Don Stinnette and Jeff Cook were Coach Bob Starkey’s most-polished reserves, and all could score in double figures. Bobby Dickman, David Gray and Otto “Deucie” Turner were also part of the 1975-76 Shepherd team that reeled off 22 consecutive wins to begin a season that when finally finished showed the high-scoring Rams with a 33-3 overall record.
It hardly seems possible that those precedent-setting Rams played 40 years ago.
Thirty-three wins. The only regular season loss was to Fairmont. And then the Falcons of Coach Joe Retton defeated Shepherd in the championship game of the WVIAC tournament.
Because it lost in the finals of the conference tournament, Shepherd couldn’t be invited to the NAIA national tournament. Instead, the Rams, who held dual membership, accepted an at-large bid to participate in the NCAA Division II national tournament where they defeated both Glassboro State (now Ramapo) and Monmouth before losing to Scranton, the eventual national champion.
In early December of 1975, the Rams beat Strayer (Washington, D.C.) by the count of 149-43. The point total is the highest in Shepherd history. And the point differential between the two teams is also the most in all of Shepherd basketball.
The Rams scored 80 points in one half against Strayer. They had 43 steals.
With its firepower and depth, Shepherd averaged over 94 points a game.
That 1975-76 team has the school record in assists for one season with 942 and for rebounds in a single season with 1,705.
Many people with long memories, snow white hair and gray beards believe that Shepherd’s all-time best player, Dave Russell, was a member of that win-encrusted team, but Russell was a senior the year before.
None of the players was assigned a special role or a nightly duty, but Sewell was almost-always joined in double-figure scoring by Rideout, Hipp, Boomer and Philippi.
It was Philippi who set the tone with his aggressive style of directing and protecting from his point guard post. Rideout had a penchant for scoring in transition or a set, half-court offense. Hipp probably took fewer shots than anybody other than Phillipi, Boomer and Allen but made a high-percentage of his attempts and added in his intelligence to the already boiling mixture of win after win.
When opponents were concentrating more on the starters . . . or on just trying to get back on defense . . . Reklis, Stinnette and Cook found their ways into the scoring column.
The team played in Sara Cree Hall, often a sauna filled with deafening noise that bounced off the low-slung ceiling. Opponents were often drowned in the 100 points or so the Rams counted.
The WVIAC had teams from practically every corner of the state, but other than Fairmont, none could beat Shepherd that season. The Rams had won three games in the league tournament before falling to Fairmont in the championship game.
This Saturday, Shepherd will host Alumni Day at 4 p.m.in the Butcher Center when West Virginia State is the opponent, with a special emphasis reserved for the team that won 33 times back there 40 seasons ago.
Winning 33 times. Losing just three.
Rodney Sewell. Mike Philippi. Charlie Rideout. Chuck Hipp. Larry Boomer. Gilbert Allen. Chip Reklis. Don Stinnette. Jeff Cook. Bobby Dickman. David Gray. Deucie Turner. Ninety-four points a game. Sewell, Philippi and Boomer in the school’s Hall of Fame.
Some records are made to be broken. Not the ones set by the 1975-76 team.