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Rams come back to make it exciting

November 21, 2004|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd College men's basketball coach Ken Tyler has little in common with the mythical super spy James Bond. But his team could be the stars of "Never Say Die."

Shepherd College turned a 24-point second-half deficit into a one-play game, but a desperation shot at the buzzer hit short on the front of the rim as the Pfeiffer Falcons held on for a 97-96 win in the championship game of the Clarion Hotel Tip-Off Tournament at the Butcher Athletic Center on Saturday.

Gannon University defeated Assumption College 73-62 in the consolation game.

It was the second year in a row that Pfeiffer (2-1) held off a late rally to win the tournament.

"By the skin of our teeth," Pfeiffer coach Dave Davis said. "Shepherd College showed incredible heart and character in the second half."

But the Rams dug a hole early in the first half, committing 10 fouls in the first 10 minutes and falling behind 56-34 at halftime. The Falcons' Rico Grier, who ended the game with 20 points, knocked down 18 by the half as the Rams went into an offensive and defensive funk.

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"We just did very little right in the first half," Tyler said. "At halftime, we talked about pride, heart and effort.

"I think they answered the call on all three."

With Shepherd down 60-36 with just more than 19 minutes to play, Chad Myers drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key and the Rams began their methodical march back into the game.

"I told our kids several times in the half that Shepherd was coming," Davis said. "We knew it, but there was little we seemingly could do about it."

Tournament MVP Danley Shank, the hero of Friday's comeback win and playing on a heavily taped ankle, refused to let the Rams give up. Shank, who scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, played flawlessly down the stretch.

"That was an incredible effort by Danley," Tyler said. "He put us on his shoulders and carried us for a while."

Shank and Myers literally willed Shepherd back into the game as Myers shot with some uncanny accuracy from the perimeter while Shank worked the ball in the paint. With just under 11 minutes to play, a layup by Ryan Peterson cut Pfeiffer's lead to 73-64.

Five minutes later, an uncontested layup by Esosa Imoisili brought the Rams to within 82-81.

From there, the lead changed hands no less than a dozen times as both teams fought late-game fatigue. But a jumper by DaMario Grier with six seconds left sealed the Rams' fate.

"Obviously we are a resilient team," Tyler said. "But just as obviously, we have to learn to play two complete halves.

"I'm proud of them," he said. "There was no quit with our guys tonight."

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