SHEPHERDSTOWN — The first time the Shepherd women stepped on the basketball court for competition against another team this semester was in Lynchburg, Va., against the Division I Liberty Flames. It was billed as an exhibition game, and the NCAA Division II Rams fell by only eight points to a team that had already played over 20 games.
Last Saturday, the lights were turned on at Shepherd’s Butcher Center. Music was filtered in through the loud speaker system. Some scattered students were allowed in to watch the Rams go against the Division III Southern Virginia Knights, a team that drove to Shepherdstown with a 0-4 record.
With a severely pared schedule, Shepherd’s prevailing 86-61 win could be a cameo appearance for the Rams, for the so-called 2020-2021 schedule.
On Shepherd University’s website, the schedule was printed with a return game against Southern Virginia slated for last night and then a pair of games next week versus Indiana University of Pennsylvania. With this being the first week in March and teams all across the area readying for tournament play — if readying for anything at all — could any more games be found to try?
And in the last sentence of the recap of the Southern Virginia game, the closing words were that any further games were “yet to be determined.”
At least Shepherd did not slip against the Knights.
Shepherd had a 22-10 lead after just one 10-minute quarter. The lead had swelled to 44-19 by halftime, with guard Marley McLaughlin already moving smoothly through and around the Knights for many of her game total of 29 points.
Three-year starter Sydney Clayton would finish with 18 points, and sophomore Abby Beeman made her considerable presence felt with 14 points and 12 assists.
Shepherd’s other starters were Jordan Smith and Hannah Myers, both returning from the successful 2019-2020 team.
Five reserves — Madi White, Angela DeLorenzo, freshman MacKenzie Freeze, Cara Minor and freshman Madison Mertz — all enjoyed generous playing time, as the Rams profited by what was once a 32-point lead.
The relative newness of actually playing a game had the Rams showing no rustiness, while making 50.8 percent of their field goal attempts (32-for-63) and 84.3 percent of their free throws (16-for-19).
The fivesome of Beeman, Clayton, McLaughlin, Smith and Myers were Shepherd’s starters a season ago, when the regular season was played in its entirety and the Rams carded more than 20 wins before the invading coronavirus cancelled the tail-end of the season.
When the scattered crowd departed the gym after the season’s first game was played, there wasn’t a “see you next year’ aura to the quiet atmosphere. But there could have been, if the Rams play just one more game at home or possibly the “yet to be determined” future could get them back at the Butcher Center for a third or fourth appearance.