By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
Factors appeared to be conspiring to give the Shepherd University women’s basketball team a bad day.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Hitting 52 percent from the floor and 19 of 24 from the foul line on Saturday afternoon, the Rams handed Bluefield State its third loss in a row, 98-65 at the Ned Shott Gym.
The Rams’ trip from the Eastern Panhandle on Friday was long and treacherous due to bad weather. The team bus also broke down. The squad did not get off the road until about midnight. Pre-existing illnesses limited the team to nine players in uniform Saturday.
But sophomore Rachel Johnson had career highs with 27 points and eight assists, and Shady Spring graduate Emily Daniel added 18 points and 13 boards for Shepherd (8-9, 7-6 West Virginia Conference).
Shepherd head coach Melanie Ford said, “We did have a smaller bench, and I think that makes the girls that are on the court know they have to step up and be accountable ... .
“Our girls came out, and I felt like they played together, they had a certain sense of urgency from the get-go. ... I think they were just ready to play.”
Johnson scored the first points of the game and recorded 10 of the Rams’ first 20 points. Meanwhile, the Lady Blues (10-7, 8-6) went five minutes between field goals as the visitors took a 20-6 lead and never looked back.
Bluefield State head coach J.J. Oliver said, “Rachel Johnson put on a clinic there in the first half.” He said the Lady Blues were “not playing defense, and not playing with the energy that we need to play with to win basketball games.”
Daniel, a senior, scored Shepherd’s last basket with 8.7 seconds left, giving her 969 career points. Her 13 boards was a season high.
She said, “Coach said before the game, a key to winning is wanting the ball. So I just went out and I wanted it, especially those rebounds. So it was a very good day.”
About her double-double, Daniel said, “That’s the way I try to play all the time. I love playing games. So I just come out and try to give 100 percent from start to finish every game.”
Playing for Shepherd has “been a great experience,” she said. “I really fit in well with their style of play.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org