"There is no doubt that Salem is a good team," Shepherd coach Betsy Blose said. "This is a good win for us, but our kids know they will have to play better at tournament time."
And usually the question is, who will step up and play big for the Rams this time?
Monday, it was Sandi Goulet and Jennifer Westervelt who picked up the pace for Shepherd in the face of a team that decided early to pull out all the stops in an attempt to topple the Rams from their spot atop the conference. Goulet ended the game as the leading scorer with 15 points, while Westervelt got 13. But, in this low-scoring contest, each and every point became tantamount to winning the game.
"Westervelt hit some big shots," Blose said. "We went with her a little late, but she came through for us."
The Rams' biggest lead was nine points following a Goulet 3- pointer with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. But the Tigers (9-15, 8-9) came right back behind the play of guard Chrissy Luchuck and forward Becky Petts. Petts led Salem with 13 points while Luchuck threw in 10.
"They are a well-coached team," Blose said of the Tigers. "We had a little trouble with their defenses early on, but our kids figured it out."
The Tigers used several different defensive looks in an attempt to slow the Rams normally potent offense. But in the second half, the game turned as Westervelt came alive under the boards for Shepherd.
Leading 37-34, Westervelt reeled off three straight baskets as the Rams attempted to hold the Tigers at arm's length. And although the Tigers came back to within 43-42, Hagerstown's Toni DeStefano drained two cosecutive 3-pointers, and the Rams' lead never went below three points after that.
"We don't have any superstars on this team," Blose said. "What we have is a bunch of kids who bought into the team concept and realize that someone has to step up and do the job every game."
An example of what Blose was talking about came with Shepherd ahead 54-51 and just over one minute remaining. The ball came out to Kassandra Kilby on the perimeter. She dropped in a 3 to give Shepherd the needed breathing room down the stretch. The shot is not a normal one in Kilby's game, but one the Rams desperately needed at the time.
"That is the story of our team," Blose said. "We have a bunch of blue collar kids who somehow found themselves in first place."