By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG - For Strasburg senior Jenna Smoot, few regular-season games compare to those against county rival Stonewall Jackson.
"Whether it's Central, Stonewall, any game in the county, it's always fun to play," she said. "We're really familiar with each other, we all know the girls on the opposing team and so it's really a fun game. It's for bragging rights."
But Smoot described the rivalry as a healthy one, characterized by physical, aggressive play and then consummated by hugs and handshakes.
Between Smoot and Stonewall Jackson senior Heather Stout, there were even some jovial laughs shared after Strasburg's 53-36 win Thursday.
"We're in a dodgeball tournament next week; we're on the same team, so we were strategizing at the end," Smoot laughed.
"Me and her, I mean we're both really good athletes at our school, and we play two sports," Stout said of her friendly rivalry with Smoot. "We work hard at it and when I play her I love it because it's great competition.
"Dodgeball next week's gonna be so fun, I mean you got two Strasburg and Stonewall girls going against all these Central guys -- it's gonna be so much fun."
But before they become teammates next week, they had to deal with each other as opponents on Thursday, as both played a game of tit-for-tat on the hardwood. Smoot scored 24 points, 20 of which came in the first half, while Stout scored 16.
But though throwing up 20 points in a game isn't necessarily an oddity for Smoot, the aggressive manner in which she scored them, she admits, is an aspect of her game she's been honing recently.
"[Strasburg] Coach [Joel] Morgan's been preaching to me a lot at practice about how I need to be more aggressive on the offensive end, and work harder to get rebounds, and be bigger in the post," Smoot said, "because that will only add another level to my game.
"Tonight I tried to do that to the best of my abilities, and I think it worked very well for me, and hopefully it does for the rest of the season."
Normally wont to leave her place on the blocks to shoot a 3-pointer, Smoot was a rock in the post Thursday, making 6-of-7 in the second quarter. Her lone miss, a 3-point attempt, was also her only shot from outside the paint.
"Jenna is playing so much more aggressively than she's ever played," Stonewall Jackson coach Jeff Burner said, "and I mean, she's going to the boards hard, she's looking to make moves to the basket.
"I'm very impressed with her game tonight."
Strasburg jumped out to an 18-5 lead after the first quarter, but was on the wrong side of a 9-2 run to start the second. The Generals' run was highlighted by six points from Stout, then halted by four consecutive points from Smoot. Stonewall whittled the deficit to as little as nine points before Smoot scored six inside of a minute to put the Rams up 32-19. After a third quarter in which both teams combined for 10 points, Stonewall climbed back to within 11 points of Strasburg in the fourth quarter on free throws from Kailey Foley and Cassie Conley. The next seven points, though, the final points of the game, went Strasburg's way.
Jaclyn Ayers scored 14 points for Strasburg; Ashlie Clar and Foley each scored six for Stonewall Jackson.
"I can't say I'm happy, because we didn't get a win, but I'm glad with the way we battled and competed with Strasburg," said Stout, who is the lone senior on a Generals team comprising eight freshmen and sophomores. "They have a lot of seniors on the team, they have a lot of knowledge of basketball and a lot of good athletes."