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Rams hold on for win

February 05, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The only thing more obvious than all the empty seats at the Butcher Center Monday night was that the Shepherd College men's basketball team was probably going to blow another one.

Too bad for everyone who decided to stay home that things aren't always as they seem.

Shepherd, which had lost seven of its last eight games and three straight at home, made a pretty good campaign for the fans to return with a thrilling 69-66 upset of West Virginia Conference foe West Virginia State.

"This was a tough game because it was a sparse crowd. We had to create the energy ourselves," said Rams coach Ken Tyler. "Obviously, we want to play in front of big crowds at the Butcher Center. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction."

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Shepherd, which led by as many as nine points in the first half and 12 in the second, was pointed that way most of the night.

But after forward Laurynas Inokaitis sank a 15-foot jumper to give the Rams (7-12, 4-7) a 54-42 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining, the Yellow Jackets (11-8, 6-4) went on a 16-3 run over the next six minutes to take their first lead of the game at 58-57. And it seemed all too reminiscent of the Rams' last two home losses to WVU-Tech and Charleston, where they blew double-digit leads in both.

"We definitely didn't want that to happen again," said Shepherd forward Mark Jennings, who scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. "At that point, we just didn't want to lose."

From that point, the teams exchanged leads five times with five ties, before center Keith Fanjoy canned a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to put Shepherd up for good at 68-66. Rams guard Kevin Newsome then went 1-for-2 from the stripe to round out the scoring with 16 ticks remaining, as State forward Dondre Williams' 3-point attempt from the top of the arc rimmed out as time expired.

"In the past we've lost our focus at those times, but tonight ... we showed a lot of resiliency," said Tyler. "It's a big, big win. We've been struggling, and they came in hot."

Christopher Dunn led the Yellow Jackets, who came in averaging 86 points per game, with 13 points, while Williams scored 12 and Dermayne Bullock had 10.

Newsome finished with 11 points and a game-high five assists for the Rams, Fanjoy had 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Dorian Sims scored eight of his 10 points in the first half as the hosts took a 40-34 lead at break.

Tyler said the big challenge now will be keeping his team moving on the forward path.

"I hope tonight was a wake-up call for us. We want to play our best basketball in February," he said. "If we can get some consistency, I think we could be one of the most dangerous teams heading into the (WVIAC) tournament."

The fans will likely return then, too.




Shepherd 69, WV State 66

WEST VIRGINIA STATE (66)

Dunn 3-11 7-10 13, Taylor 2-8 3-4 8, Mitchell 2-5 3-4 7, Donaldson 2-10 0-0 4, Williams 5-10 2-2 12, Bullock 3-5 1-2 10, Brown 1-2 0-0 2, Beller 3-8 0-0 7, Almon 0-4 1-2 1, Penn 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 22-68 17-24 66.

SHEPHERD COLLEGE (69)

Sims 2-5 4-4 10, Jennings 8-15 2-3 18, Davis 3-4 1-2 7, Newsome 4-8 3-5 11, Fanjoy 2-6 7-11 11, Rheinhardt 1-2 0-0 2, Sesker 2-4 0-0 4, Stewart 0-2 2-2 2, Inokaitis 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 24-51 19-27 69.

Halftime - Shepherd, 40-34. Three-point goals - WV State 5-18 (Taylor 1-5, Donaldson 0-5, Bullock 3-4, Beller 1-4), Shepherd 2-3 (Sims 2-2, Sesker 0-1). Rebounds - WV State 38, Shepherd 42.

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