The Rams (14-15, 11-10 MEC) took down the Bobcats (6-18, 6-15 MEC) of West Virginia Wesleyan Thursday evening by a 65-61 score on Senior Night.
And what a Senior Night performance it was from senior guard Cara Mason. She led all scorers with 17 points, continually getting layup after layup, going right through the heart of the Bobcats’ defense.
All five seniors started the game for the Rams: Mason, guard Sammy Bane, forward Hailey Brown, forward Kristina Prange, and forward Liz Myers. They all helped the Rams get off to a hot start with their ball movement and defensive play.
Up 35-22 at halftime, the Rams were clicking on all cylinders. The team made 16-34 (47.06 percent) of their field goals on the way to taking a double-digit lead going into halftime.
The Bobcats were ice cold shooting wise in the first half, making just 9-29 (31.03 percent), including a 1-8 display from three-point range. Defensively, the Rams were bothering their shooters, as they could never really get into a good groove until the game was already decided.
That is not to say the Bobcats did not make things interesting though. With the lead 41-29 in favor of the Rams in third quarter, everyone got the feeling watching that perhaps the Bobcats had plans to mount a comeback and steak a win on Senior Night.
Mason and Prange would not let this happen though. Mason attacked the basket with ferocity and converted two layups. The Bobcats had no answers for keeping her out of the paint all night long. Then, at the end of the quarter, Prange made a buzzer-beating three-pointer that sent the arena into a frenzy.
Up 56-37, the Rams appeared to have this one locked up. A curious move by head coach Jenna Eckleberry of the Rams was when she took out the starters and the seniors and put some of the reserve players in when the score started to get close.
Outscoring the Rams 24-9 in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats had the Rams on their heels. Whether it was second chance points or three-point shooting, the Bobcats took advantage of the inexperienced Rams’ lineup. They cut the lead to four with 00:13 left in regulation off of a three-pointer by Stacey Remer.
Two prior free throws by junior guard Tiffany McKinney of the Rams gave them all the margin they needed to close out the game.
On the Bobcats’ final possession, the Rams came up with a steal, courtesy of freshman guard Lindsey Bedregal, that sealed the deal and preserved the hard-earned victory.
After the game, Eckleberry said she wanted to get the younger players on the team experience in late-game situations, because they will be having significant roles on the team going forward.
Nicole Gilyard of the Bobcats had 14 points to lead her team in scoring. Tara Goldman had an impressive double-double with her 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Senior forward Liz Myers filled the stat sheet in numerous ways for the Rams. She recorded 12 points, six rebounds, and four blocked shots. Fellow senior forward Kristina Prange provided a nice spark with her 11 points.
One of the unsung heroes of the game was sophomore guard Kari Lankford of the Rams. She came up with numerous loose-ball rebounds, fighting off Bobcats who had significant size advantages over her. Her game-best 11 rebounds helped set the tone for what was mostly a pedestrian night offensively for the Bobcats.
Currently, the Rams are sixth in the Mountain East Conference standings. They have the same 11-10 record in conference play as West Virginia State. As long as they win on Saturday, they will be locked into the sixth seed. However, if they lose and West Virginia State beats Charleston on Saturday, then the Yellow Jackets will reclaim the sixth seed from the Rams.
On Saturday, the Rams hit the road to face Fairmont State University, searching for their fifth win in a row to close out the season. The Rams will surely be looking to keep up their late season momentum heading into the Mountain East Conference tournament next week.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org