Thursday evening, the Rams (10-15, 7-10 MEC) fell at home to the Falcons of Notre Dame College (Ohio) by a score of 74-71.
In the first half, the Rams and Falcons were going neck-to-neck, basket-to-basket. Neither side could gain any separation.
One reason why the Rams could not get any breathing room from the Falcons was their inability to rebound. For the game, the Falcons grabbed 50 rebounds to the Rams’ 25. With these rebounds, the Falcons produced 24 second chance points and finished with 36 points in the paint.
Coach Eckleberry of the Rams explained after the game that the players “actually have to put a body on someone to block them out.” Too many times, players were ball-watching as the ball went up, and not positioning themselves to rebound.
With that being said, the Rams did build a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter when junior guard Kayla Tibbs converted a layup with 5:37 to play. Tibbs (16 points) exploded after a quiet first half with several key baskets that helped build the Rams’ lead.
Junior guard Morgan Arden also stretched the lead with her 18 points, which led the Rams. She time and time again found ways to score inside against the Falcons’ defense.
The Rams had the Falcons on their heels, but down the stretch, the Falcons executed to finish out the game strong.
One reason why was senior guard Cara Mason of the Rams fouled out with around seven minutes left in regulation. The Rams lost great leadership and experience on the court when she went to the bench.
Terrina Robinson (18 points) of the Falcons made two free throws with 1:49 to play to diminish the Rams’ lead and tied the game at 69 all.
After exchanging two-point baskets, Robinson again stepped up in the clutch when her team needed it most, making a layup that gave the Falcons a 73-71 lead with 00:33 left.
With missed free throws from Jessie Stout (15 points) and Kim Cook of the Falcons, the Rams were down 74-71 with 00:07 left and had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer.
Bringing the ball up court, Arden looked to find a teammate to take the shot, but seeing the clock had little time left, launched a desperation, off-balance heave from just beyond the three-point line that hit the backboard.
This ended the game and vaulted the Rams down the Mountain East Conference standings.
Seina Adachi produced 13 points for the Falcons, but the all-around game went to Kelsey Miller of the Falcons. She posted a monster double-double with 18 points and led all players with 15 rebounds. Rebounding hurt the Rams time and time again.
Senior forward Liz Myers of the Rams battled hard all night against Miller in the post, totaling 12 points in the contest.
Free throws also shaped the game’s outcome: the Rams were just 3-of-6 from the foul line while the Falcons were 16-of-26. The Falcons were able to defend without fouling, making life tough for the Rams.
The Rams shot 53.3 percent (32-of-60) from the floor, going 4-of-9 from three-point range. The Faclons shot 43.3 percent (26-of-60) on their field goal attempts, making 6-of-20 three-pointers.
Shepherd is now eighth in the Mountain East Conference standings. With the win, Notre Dame is now sixth.
Looking to shake off this game, the Rams will host Urbana Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in a critical showdown.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com