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Shepherd women win WVIAC

February 22, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd University women's basketball team had a definite battle plan on Thursday.

The Rams called in the guards and claimed total victory over Fairmont State.

The reward? Not one, but three celebrations.

Shepherd's backcourt totally outclassed Fairmont - forcing the Falcons into 21 turnovers, including 14 off steals - to knock off Division II's No. 25 team and claim the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's regular season title with a 79-66 victory at the Butcher Center. It was Shepherd's 11th straight win.

Fairmont got even, though, as the Falcons scored a 74-71 win in the men's game.

With the championship, the Rams (20-5, 17-2) earned a first-round bye and advance to the quarterfinals of next week's conference tournament in Charleston, W.Va.

"This was a big win," Shepherd coach Jodie Runner said. "They have all that tradition behind them. We needed all 40 minutes to beat them when we played them at their place. We knew that (Jaimie) Merinar isn't a true point guard, so we wanted to go and pressure them and go up-tempo on them."

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The Rams celebrated the victory outside of their locker room after the game, sort of a loud sigh of relief. Shortly after the postgame interviews, Runner was notified the Rams had the title and called the team back to the locker room. Later, they celebrated at halfcourt during halftime of the men's game when the news was announced to the crowd.

It was a fitting end to an evening of hard, but calculated work, centering on the guard play.

Fairmont used its inside game to power to the basket while Shepherd finessed its way through the first half. With the score tied at 25 with 4:48 left before intermission, Shepherd came out of a timeout in man pressure to attack the Falcons. Fairmont began to fold like a deck chair.

Tiffany Acker got two big steals - one following the timeout and the other with 45 seconds remaining in the half - to give the Rams five points, the difference in the 36-31 half.

"It was the first time I guarded (Merinar)," said Acker, who finished with 14 points in the first half, well above her 5.8 points-per-game average. "I stood back and watched her dribble, just to make sure she didn't do anything between her legs, and then went for the steal. It helped that (Krissy Grosselin and Nylia Zamora) guarded her first to help wear her down."

Somehow, Shepherd managed the halftime lead despite being outrebounded 14-5 and watching Fairmont shoot 81 percent from the floor. The Rams stayed in the game by forcing 15 turnovers, 11 by steals.

"In the last game, we didn't score from the outside," Runner said. "I told them the guards were going to be the difference today."

Fairmont stayed within three early in the second half until Shepherd used a 6-0 run, keyed by four points by Katie Warehime, to build a 46-37 lead Fairmont couldn't overcome.

Warehime led Shepherd with 19 points, while Laura Harkins added 16 and Grosselin had 13.

It was a different story for the men, who struggled to keep pace with Fairmont.

Shepherd struggled to find continuity for an entire game as the Rams failed in a perimeter attack to overcome the Falcons.

"That has been the theme for us all year," said Shepherd coach Ken Tyler. "We go through stretches where it's hard to score. We did it again tonight."

The Rams (14-12, 8-11) led 35-27 with 4:24 left in the first half on a Jonathan Motichka 3-pointer. Shepherd didn't score a point in the next 7:14 as Fairmont got back into the game.

The Falcons went to a zone defense, taking Shepherd's Liki Turner out of the game and rendering center Justin Jarman ineffective to roll to a tie and then a 55-50 lead. The Rams tied the game at 59, but the Falcons took control in the final six minutes for the win.

Thad McFadden led Fairmont with 20 points and Nate Hart, who averages six points a game, finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Hedgesville graduate Michael Lopez scored nine points for Fairmont, all on 3s. Turner had 17 and Derek Gallagher had 15, all on 3s.

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