SHEPHERDSTOWN — At Shepherd, “tenacious” is spelled Aeron Spencer, the best of the Rams’ defenders. And “intense” is spelled Marcus Pilgrim, an always-ready guard who doesn’t rest.
Those two reserves were starters last season. Their assets sometimes go overlooked.
Two Shepherd players who weren’t overlooked on Monday when the Rams outworked and outhustled visiting Wheeling Jesuit in a 113-101 conference win were record-setting Brantley Osborne and All-America prospect Chad Moore.
Osborne went 7-for-8 from the floor in the second half as he tied the school record for nine three-point field goals in a game and gave his coterie of about 14 rooters from his home area of Sunbury, Pa. reason to often stand and cheer his 31 points.
Moore was his usual perpetual motion self as his effort gave him 29 points and eight rebounds in a pragmatic style that leads without words.
The pell-mell, racehorse tempo Shepherd seeks didn’t come for most of the first half. Wheeling Jesuit was little troubled by the Rams’ full court pressure defense. In fact, the Cardinals had a 22-15 lead before a 10-point outburst brought Shepherd its first lead. And even then, Wheeling Jesuit responded with the next six points.
But the pace was quickening. And for deeper stretches of minutes. Shepherd’s much longer bench of Spencer, Pilgrim, Kevin Jones, and Malik Dauda helped make the game a melting pot of up-and-down action that was only beneficial to the Rams.
Shepherd hadn’t shot particularly well from the field, but still had a 55-48 lead by the half’s close.
And then Osborne became white-hot from the perimeter. Moore ignited a running game that had many in the crowd of about 700 on their feet and the Cardinals rushing to call two timeouts.
Wheeling Jesuit had no ways of stopping either Moore or the inside scoring of Morgan McDonald so it reverted to a 2-3 zone.
Osborne patiently waited for his openings. He missed only one time in the entire second half, scoring 21 points in that segment. His aim was true and the Cardinals had to choose their Shepherd poison — either Moore and McDonald around the rim or Osborne outside the arc with his three-pointers.
The Shepherd lead went to 85-69 as seemingly every loose ball, contested rebound, or hustle play had the Rams scoring again and again.
There might be an easy Wheeling Jesuit score against the constant press, but the Rams would get three workaholic scores themselves.
With a tangible lead that once was as high as 23 points, the Rams went to a 2-3 zone of their own with 7:35 to play. The Cardinals winged in enough three-pointers, but the clock gradually worked its was down to nothing.
The raucous victory moved the Rams to 9-4 overall and 6-3 in the league while Wheeling Jesuit dipped to 6-7 overall and 3-6 in the conference.
Wheeling Jesuit had beaten the Rams just before Christmas, but with Spencer, Pilgrim, Moore, Osborne and a host of contributing friends alongside it was Shepherd exacting some measure of revenge on Monday.