Senior guard Morgan Arden made a three-point shot with the game tied at the buzzer to give the Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (6-5, 2-4 MEC) a dramatic 65-62 comeback victory over the Shippensburg Raiders (1-10, 0-5 PSAC) Monday evening at home in the Butcher Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Earlier in the game, Arden, who led the Rams with 23 points, became the Rams all-time leading scorer as well. She now has 1,581 career points. Sherry Price, who was a Ram from 1982-1986, was the previous record holder with 1,572 career points.
However, the Rams would need every single one of Arden’s points to help generate a comeback effort against the visiting Raiders.
With a layup by senior center Kristin McGeough, the Raiders had a 56-43 lead with 9:43 remaining, giving the Rams a 13-point deficit to overcome. McGeough had the second most points (12) for the Raiders and pulled down four rebounds.
After the game, via text, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, detailed what the Raiders were able to do in order to generate this large lead.
“[W]we went through a few stretches where we took bad shots or turned it over [a few] possessions in a row and [S]shippensburg had a very good point guard that was quick to [the] basket in transition and we had a stretch where we couldn’t stop her,” Eckleberry explained.
The point guard Eckleberry was referring to was Raiders’ freshman point guard Ariel Jones, who posted a game-high 25 points to go along with six rebounds and two assists. At times, as Eckleberry stated, Jones simply had her way with the Rams’ defense, scoring however she wanted.
Jones earned nearly half of her points at the free throw line by making 10 out of her 12 free throw attempts.
The deficit did not phase the Rams, however, as they kept attacking the basket and scoring on the inside of the Raiders’ defense with numerous layups in the fourth quarter. Drawing fouls also keyed the Rams’ comeback, as the Rams made five crucial free throws down the stretch.
Junior forward Liz Moorman became a go-to option for the Rams in the closing minutes, scoring seven points through layups and free throws. Moorman compiled 11 points and a team-leading eight rebounds on the night.
Two made free throws by Arden gave the Rams a slim 60-59 lead with 2:38 to play. Arden then made a layup with 1:28 left that gave the Rams a 62-59 lead, as the Raiders appeared to have lost control of the game.
However, the Raiders, like the Rams had done the whole quarter, began to attack the basket themselves. Freshman forward Kryshell Gordy drew a foul on Moorman that gave her two free throw attempts with 1:13 left on the clock. Gordy, who had four points and led all players with 11 rebounds, made the first free throw, but missed the second one.
The Raiders trailed 62-60 and needed to get the ball back.
On the Rams’ ensuing possession, junior guard Kayla Tibbs, who finished the game with 16 points (second most on the team), missed what likely would have been a dagger three-pointer with 59 seconds remaining, keeping the Raiders alive.
Jones then drew a foul on Rams junior guard Kari Lankford, earning two free throw attempts to try and tie the game.
Jones showed tremendous composure for a freshman, knocking down the two free throws to tie the game at 62-62 with 49 seconds left in regulation.
Tibbs then proceeded to turn the ball over and fouled the Raiders’ ball handler with 23 seconds left in a desperate attempt to not allow her to score what had a chance of being the potential winning basket.
The Raiders then called a timeout to set up a potential winning play. McGeough got the ball and was able to draw a foul on Rams senior forward Jazmyne Howard with just over one second remaining.
It appeared that the Rams’ comeback attempt would come up short, as McGeough would get two chances to give the Raiders the lead. McGeough, however, would go on to miss both of her free throw attempts.
Moorman rebounded the second missed free throw and the Rams quickly called a timeout with 0.6 left on the clock to set up a potential winning shot.
Arden then caught the inbounds pass and quickly launched a three-pointer at the buzzer that went in to give the Rams a 65-62 home victory, sending the home crowd into absolute hysteria.
After the game, via text, Arden described how the final play transpired.
“I just tried to come tight off the screen that my teammates set for me to get open” Arden said. “They set me great screens. I knew I didn’t have much time[,] but the shot felt good and my team made that play possible!”
Eckleberry commented on what is says about her team to rebound from the deficit the Rams encountered and win Monday evening’s game.
“I think this team loves to give me heart attacks lol,” Eckleberry said. “No, it is amazing how well we can play at times. We let our defense bring us back in the fourth [quarter]. We had many people step up and make plays. We have a team that never gives up.”
In the loss, the Raiders managed to score just eight points in the fourth quarter, as they had a hard time knocking down their shots. For the game, the Raiders shot just 35.7 percent (20-56), but did shoot well from three-point range by making 46.2 percent of their three-pointers (6-13). As was the case late in the game, free throws proved to be a problem for the Raiders, as the team was able to make just 64 percent (16-25) of their shots from the foul line.
Overall, the Rams shot a little bit better at 41 percent for the game (25-61), but did not have the same spark that the Raiders had from three-point range, making just 23.5 percent (4-17) of their three-pointers. However, when the Rams got to the free throw line, they often times converted. The Rams made 84.6 percent (11-13) of their free throws, proving ever crucial down the stretch with the close game.
Howard made valuable contributions for the Rams with her eight points and seven rebounds.
Both teams battled hard on the glass, as the Rams had a slim 39-38 edge in the rebounding department. The Raiders got the Rams to turn the ball over 17 times, while the Rams generated 16 Raider’s turnovers.
After suffering a rough four-game losing streak, the Rams have won two of their past three games, with both wins coming down to the wire.
Arden described what kind of momentum the Rams can take from this win going forward.
“We talked about finishing the 1st [first] half of the season strong and we did,” Arden said. “We showed a lot of fight and togetherness, and that’s what can take our team to the next level going forward into the second half of our season. We’re excited and hungry!”
On Saturday, Dec. 30, the Rams will look to win their second game in a row when they travel to Petersburg, Va., to take on Virginia State. Gametime is at 2 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org