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Rams turn over Firebirds' press

December 23, 2002|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - With just under two minutes left in the game at Shepherd College Friday night, Rams forward Brianne Hamilton threw a pass intended for Ashley van Norden that sailed two feet over her head and landed in the third row of the seats behind the media table.

Shepherd coach Jodie Runner took a deep breath and let it out.

If she had done that every time the Rams turned the ball over, she may have hyperventilated.

Shepherd gave the ball away 25 times, but shot an uncanny 55 percent from the floor to finally pull away from a stubborn University of the District of Columbia team, 72-55.

It was the second straight win for the Rams (3-5), who are perfect (3-0) at home this season.

Yet, Runner, although pleased with the team's overall performance, was quite concerned about the turnovers.

"Way too many give aways," Runner said. "We are going to have to focus on taking care of the basketball."

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But Shepherd had little trouble taking care of the Lady Firebirds once they solved the UDC press. From the beginning of the game, the teams obviously had two contrasting styles of play.

Shepherd, - with a handful of quick, interchangeable guards on its roster - pushed the ball up the floor at a frantic pace and at times looked as if they would run away with it.

The Rams led 10-0 with just under two minutes gone in the first half.

But the plodding, deliberate style employed by UDC frustrated Shepherd into taking some risks in the passing lanes.

UDC climbed back into the game and trailed only 32-30 at the half.

"I think the press caught us off guard," van Norden said. "It's funny. In practice, we don't have a problem with making the right choices against the press. But out there tonight, we struggled from time to time."

But UDC inexplicably abandoned the press in the second half and the Rams pulled away, going up 60-41 with just under seven minutes left.

However, Firebirds coach Stephanie Suber decided to go back to the press with the Shepherd lead at 18 points.

The Firebirds went on a 13-0 run drawing to within 60-55. But Ram Cassie Murray drained a 3-pointer, and Shepherd was able to pull away for good.

"The press isn't anything we haven't seen," Runner said. "Ashley (van Norden) and Lindsay (Stewart) handled the ball very well for us out there and we were able to play through those bad times."

"Once we get our chemistry, we will play at that high level all the time," van Norden said. "We will be all right."

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