SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd has a quality team. Charleston has a quality team. Without much difference between the two WVIAC contenders, their Saturday meeting at the Butcher Center was expected to be an important conference game with the outcome meaning plenty even three months from now.
None of the 700 people in attendance were disappointed in the energy displayed and the level of excellence reached in what was finalized as an 80-74 overtime win by Shepherd, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the league.
Energetic as it was, Shepherd still struggled from the outset. It’s do-everything forward, Chad Moore, could score only one point in the first half. Charleston’s 2-3 half-court zone defense caused a long drought in the Rams’ scoring efforts. There was no inside scoring from the Shepherd front line, no offensive rebounds.
If Marcus Pilgrim hadn’t left the Shepherd bench and done more scoring than anybody, the Rams would have trailed by more than the seven points they were behind at the half.
Shepherd and Charleston had utilized pressure defenses for much of the opening half.
Trailing by seven points, Shepherd was back pressing to begin the last half.
The Rams outscored the Golden Eagles, 9-2, to get back even at 40-40.
From then on, the scoring margins for either side were small.
Charleston’s shooting went backwards. Shepherd was showing its most tenacious — and effective — defense any Ram team had displayed in many, many years.
Brantley Osborne was warming to the occasion. After a five-point first half, he had scored seven second-half points in what was a 47-47 game.
Charleston was alarmed and unsatisfied when Shepherd’s half-court defense caused it to continually hurry shots with three-to-six seconds left on the 35-second shot clock.
The Rams slipped away to a 60-54 lead on a pair of Pilgrim three-pointers. But Charleston scored the next six points to keep its finger in the dike.
With less than a minute left in regulation, Moore (who scored 12 points in the last half) made two free throws. And it was tied again at 65-65.
When Charleston couldn’t score with the last possession in regulation, the game went to overtime.
It was then that Osborne found room to make back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Rams a 75-69 lead that would not be breached by the Golden Eagles.
Even though it had a polished leader in point guard Evan Faulkner and placed five players in double figures, Charleston didn’t win.
The 21 turnovers, meager nine free throws it attempted, and skimpy seven steals it produced did not outweigh its 10-rebound advantage.
Shepherd was a definitive 11-for-26 (42 percent) on three-point shot attempts, committed only 14 fouls, and had 11 steals.
Osborne and Pilgrim were a combined 8-for-14 on three-point attempts.
Quality had met quality.
Shepherd had taken the game in overtime.
Shepherd had shown eight players that had contributed.
And even with the high-scoring Moore managing his low point total of the season, the Rams were able to defeat a team whose WVIAC destiny is bound for the upper reaches of the 15-team conference.