The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team improved to 3-4 on the season as they edged the West Liberty Hilltoppers on the road 69-57 in a defensive showdown Wednesday evening.
After the first quarter, the Hilltoppers led 20-16, but the Rams defense started to tighten up, keeping the opposition in check with their stingy defense. The Rams forced 21 turnovers to help set the tone for the contest, as this was a low-scoring affair.
At the start of the game, the Rams just simply could not seem to find a groove offensively, shooting 31.03 percent on two-point field goals and going 1-of-8 from downtown. To say the Rams needed to force turnovers to generate easy shots was clearly an understatement. The Rams’ aggressive defense produced 17 points off of turnovers for the game, which ultimately led to the victory.
To showcase how few and far between baskets came in this game, neither team had a single point in the paint the entire game! Also, both teams produced zero points combined in the fast break department. Both coaches wanted their teams to execute in a half court offensive set, knowing how tough buckets were to come by in this game.
In the second half, it was obvious the Rams made halftime adjustments, as their offense was very efficient in the second half. The Rams shot near 60 percent on two-point field goals and shot 4 – of – 6 from beyond the arc. After a cold shooting first half, the Rams warmed up in a big way.
The Hilltoppers would not go away though. A free throw by Emily Bucon cut the Rams’ lead to one (52-51) with 7:20 left on the clock, but the Rams executed down the stretch to hang on for the victory. A field goal by senior guard Cara Mason made it 56-51 in favor of the Rams with 7:08 to play. The real clincher was a three-pointer by junior guard Tiffany McKinney with 2:36 remaining that all but iced the game for the Rams.
Thanks to their defensive play, the Rams held the Hilltoppers to 36.5 percent shooting for the game, including 29.2 percent from downtown. Rebounding was near dead even though, as the Hilltoppers held a 38-36 edge in this department.
Marissa Brown and Lindsay Fenwick led the way for the Hilltoppers, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively.
For the Rams, senior guard Cara Mason led the charge with 14 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and an impressive seven steals. She caused headaches for the Hilltoppers all night long.
Senior forward Liz Myers and junior guards Tiffany McKinney and Morgan Arden all chipped in with 10 points each in the victory.
Head Coach Jenna Eckleberry had a few comments after the game, saying, “Cara Mason had a great all around game…Tiffany McKinney gave us a huge lift off the bench and brought intensity on defense.”
“We defended the three [point shot] extremely well, held them to 7-24 from three [point range]. We also outscored them by 10 at the free throw line. And our defensive intensity provided us with 14 steals.”
In terms of what the team needs to work on for their next game, Coach Eckleberry said, “Continue to improve in all areas on defense and work the ball on offense.”
The Rams will aim to get back to .500 on Saturday afternoon when they host Wheeling Jesuit, on what should be an emotional Alumni Day.
Anthony Bracken is a Sports Reporter for The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org