Shepherd men’s basketball (10-8, 6-6 MEC), lost in a competitive and exciting game against Fairmont State University (14-4, 11-1 MEC). The game came down to the final two minute, as Fairmont would triumph 73-66, Saturday, Jan 26.
The Butcher Center was packed, according to Shepherd’s athletic department 865 people attended. Most were Rams’ fans, but Fairmont brought a nice sized crowd as well.
From the opening tip-off Fairmont played with high energy. On defense they put pressure on the ball handler and on offense they hit three back-to-back three pointers getting an early 11-2 lead.
Shepherd settled in, and quickly tied the game at 11 thanks to senior guard Derrick McKnight who had some tough drives to the basket. Winston Burgess also had a big impact offensively adding 18 points, and on defense he was constantly seen contesting shots in the paint.
The Falcons realized that they couldn’t check Burgess one on one, so they started double teaming him every time he got the ball in the post and forced Burgess to pass the ball back out to the perimeter.
Shepherd shot 39 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range, which played a big part of the game. Another thing that hurt the Rams throughout the game was their 10 turnovers. Most of them were all mental errors on their part and not forced by the defender. FSU capitalized on every single one of Shepherd’s turnovers.
Fairmont shot 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range, led by guard Vonte Montgomery who led all scorers with 20 points and seven rebounds, most of them coming in the second half.
At the start of the second half junior Thomas Lang, hit two consecutive three’s lighting the Butcher Center up. Lang finished with 18 points, and four assists. The Falcons controlled the lead through most of the second half, but the Rams trailed closely.
Fairmont won the battle on the boards edging Shepherd 37 to 32 in rebounds. It would have helped Shepherd to get more offensive rebounds since they weren’t having their best shooting performance.
Despite not having their best day offensively the Rams rallied back late into the game, having everyone on the edge of their seat. McKnight tied the game at 66 by making both of his free throws, with 1:11 remaining left in the game.
Fairmont came back down the court and passed the ball to 5’7” guard Jason Jolly, who crossed over a defender, stepped back and sunk a deep three pointer. Coach Justin Namolik called a timeout to draw up a game plan.
“Our main thing we were focusing on was defense. Also making sure once we got the ball on offense side that we made sure we took care of it,” Burgess said, talking about their plan in the final minute of the game.
McKnight inbounded the ball with a defender pressing against him, he tried to race up the court but lost his balance and the ball. Jolly recovered the ball forcing Shepherd to foul him to stop the clock. Jolly knocked down both of his free throws, coming in the clutch to give his team the victory.
The Rams will play another top ranked opponent when they face number one seeded West Liberty Wednesday, Jan. 30, here in Shepherdstown.
Justin Cole is the Sports Editor for the Picket, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org