SHEPHERDSTOWN — Jogging off the court at halftime, the Shepherd team had a list of problems that was headed by the 10-point deficit it faced against conference opponent Seton Hill.
The Rams badly needed a rocket-fired start to the second half. A start where they cut significant points off the Griffins’ lead.
Such a productive beginning was achieved. In nine minutes, Shepherd had outscored its then-unsteady rival, 31-13, and used that game-saving production to salt away a 91-83 victory that was anything but easy.
Problems, problems, and more problems were shoved in Shepherd’s path.
First of all, steady starter Morgan McDonald didn’t play. His absence disrupted Coach Justin Namolik’s player rotation, giving him one less contributor to work through whatever trouble spots might be met.
And worst of all, leading scorers Chad Moore and Brantley Osborne were not as unstoppable as they usually are. Both had been removed from the stagnant action because each had two fouls.
Starter Sidney McCray played 14 minutes in that bedraggled first half and was scoreless. He didn’t have a rebound and had missed all three of his shots.
Shepherd had 31 points, shooting only three free throws, being outrebounded, 18-13, and showing point guard Austin Cunningham with four turnovers.
Seton Hill was solving its always-implimented full court press, throwing long passes over defenders and then scoring on layups.
McDonald’s absence had not been adequately addressed.
With a 6-3 conference record, Shepherd had no room for another loss.
When the second half began, the Rams were in a 2-3 zone. Seton Hill didn’t have to show much halfcourt offense in the first half because it was facing a fullcourt press. And handled it.
It couldn’t handle the halfcourt defense well at all.
After scoring the first four points of the half, Shepherd was on its way.
Cunningham was getting to the heart of the Seton Hill defense and helping teammates find shots they could make. Most helpful was Shepherd’s first-seen offensive rebounding. With Moore, Osborne, Cunningham, and Kevin Jones all gathering meaningful rebounds after Ram misses, Seton Hill was reeling and in need of the three timeouts Coach Tony Morocco was angrily calling.
At the 13:40 mark, Shepherd had reached its first tie at 52-52. With fully 10:30 to play, the Rams were ahead, 62-54, and had solved the puzzles that had plagued their attempts at first-half effectiveness.
Aeron Spencer had been particularly troublesome for the black-clad Griffins. His floor play, occasional scoring, steals, and tormenting defense were blended with Moore’s overall domination (16 second-half points, five rebounds in the surge from behind, and 4-of-5 shooting from the field).
Osborne kept missing time because of his fouls, but had 17 points, five rebounds, made four straight free throws in the last two minutes, and had three assists.
Spencer, Marcus Pilgrim, and Malik Dauda left Shepherd’s shortened bench and did little wrong, especially in the Rams’ 60-point second half. That now-reliable threesome combined for 29 points, eight rebounds, five steals, and went 11-for-19 from the field.
Shepherd had outrebounded the startled Griffins, 23-12, in the definitive second half.
Problems. Problems. Problems.
But none that went unsolved in the second half where the Rams outpointed the Griffins, 60-42.