"Close ... that's the way it has been all season," Shepherd coach Denny Alexander said. "We had our chances. We finally got the lead and then..."
And then the Rams (8-14, 7-10) failed to land the knockout blow again. Eight of Shepherd's 14 losses have been by four points or less.
"We settled down late in the game," Alexander said. "But the difference was (Salem-Teikyo) played with confidence the entire game and we played like we were trying to prove something."
Salem entered the game cocky, but were brought back to confident by the Rams. Shepherd fell behind 10-2 to open the game but came back within four points in the first half before settling for a 37-32 halftime deficit.
The Tigers outscored Shepherd 11-6 to open the second half until Terrance Springer was called for a foul and a technical foul to ignite the Rams' comeback.
Shepherd clawed its way back with a 20-9 run over the next 6:11, keyed by nine of Duane Harris' team-high 18 points, to take a 58-57 lead. The comeback was more amazing since starting big men Richie Sutherland and Chris Teal were on the bench with four fouls each during part of the run.
The Rams took a 62-59 lead on a 3-point bomb by Jim Coyle with 6:14 remaining and were in position to go up five until Mike Johnson missed a layup 14 seconds later. Carl Bohannon drained a trey for three of his 18 points to tie the game at 62 with 5:47 left to allow Salem to regain the momentum.
"Shepherd came right at us and Denny had a great game plan," said Salem coach Mike Carey. "That's the second straight game we thought we would win by just showing up. We won 22 in a row and we have become too cocky. When Bohannon hit that big 3 we got the game back."
Salem started using the clock to escape with the win. After Harris canned a 3-pointer from 25 feet to move the Rams within 71-69, Melvin Roberts was fouled going to the hoop with :12 remaining. He hit one of two foul shots to make it a three-point game.
Shepherd hustled down the floor, looking for Coyle or Harris to take the tying shot, but settled for a open try by Fitzpatrick off the left wing that hit off the front of the rim.
"I would have rather had a win, but that would have tied the game," Alexander said. "I would have taken that."