“You never want to lose to Ross,” he added.
“Eric has his four or five assists, his eight or nine points, and he always guards the other team’s best player,” said Edgewood coach John Thomas. “You guys don’t talk to him, but his teammates appreciate what he does.”
Junior Aaron Frazier score a game-high 20 points for the Cougars. Shepherd finished with 18 and sophomore Caleb Allen added 14 for Edgewood (11-4, 8-1), which went into the game one game behind undefeated Mount Healthy in the SWOC. The Cougars have won four straight games and seven of their last eight going into a non-conference home game against Valley View on Saturday.
Senior guard Cole Gronas led Ross (9-5, 4-5) with 16 points. Junior center Max Stepaniak finished with 15 and junior guard Jimmy Booker added 14 for the Rams, who were coming off a tough 62-53 loss to the Fighting Owls on Tuesday. They also are due to play a non-conference home game against Taylor on Saturday.
Both teams finished with 21 field goals, including eight 3 pointers, but Edgewood went 13-of-21 on free throws, led by Shepherd’s 8-of-8, while Ross was limited to 9-of-11.
Edgewood handed the Rams their worst loss of the season on Dec. 6, winning 67-46 at Edgewood. Ross in Friday’s rematch had a chance to clinch a win in regulation after Gronas sank two free throws for a 52-49 lead with 7.8 seconds left in the game. Coach David Lane’s plan was for the Rams to foul somebody before Edgewood could launch a game-tying 3-pointer.
“They did foul, but you’ve got to make it a definite foul,” Lane said after the game. “It’s a good lesson for us.”
Ross senior Blake Lakes scored on a putback with 54.1 seconds left in overtime to cut Edgewood’s lead to 61-59, but Allen hit the first of two free throws for a 62-59 Cougars’ lead and junior Anthony Scott was fouled after rebounding a missed Rams free throw and made it a two-possession game by sinking the second of two free throws with 2.8 seconds left.
“I’m happy with the win,” Thomas said. “I don’t know how I’d feel if we’d lost, but that was a great basketball game.”
The Cougars opened the game with a 7-0 run and led by as many as 14 points in the first half. The Rams fought back to cut the deficit to six, 24-18, on a Gronas 3-pointer with 1:30 left in the first half before Brooks scored on a putback of his own miss for a 26-18 halftime lead.
Stepaniak scored nine points in the third quarter as Ross stormed from behind to take the lead. Increased defensive intensity, including a full-court press, and Edgewood’s switch from a zone defense to man-to-man helped the Rams’ to come from behind.
“We have a good man-to-man offense,” Lane said. “We told them in the locker room that you can’t come out slow in the first quarter. We came back, but we were spent.”