By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- It wasn't the prettiest of wins by any means; but a win, no matter how charmless, no matter how coarse, is certainly a fine way to open district play.
Sure the game had its frustrating moments, Clarke County's 23 fouls likely being the Eagles' most glaring concern. Their inability to find a weakness in Strasburg's various zone defenses likely posed another.
And then there was the slow, idle pace of the game, brought on by a combination of Clarke County's fouling and Strasburg's defending.
"There was no rhythm to that game," Clarke County coach Brent Emmart said. "I was watching that game, and it was like watching paint dry."
But the Eagles' 61-45 win over the Rams on Wednesday had its satisfactory moments as well, especially to close out the game.
After a third quarter that saw only two more points scored (10) than fouls made (eight) by Clarke County, the Eagles (7-5, 1-0 Bull Run) buckled down in the final frame, when the Rams (4-8, 0-2 Bull Run) seemed capable of being the most dangerous.
Up only six points to start the fourth quarter, with already no fouls to give and hardly an offensive beat to speak of, Clarke County missed only twice on eight shot attempts in the final eight minutes, and rather than committing costly fouls, converted nine free throws and scored 21 points.
"Emmart always preaches closing games," Eagles junior Grant Shaw said. "It was a six, seven-point game -- you can't lose district games at home -- so we just needed to finish and get a win."
Zach Shiley, who until Wednesday night was inactive with a broken leg, saw flashes of floor-time in the first half, and nursed his leg with a bag of ice for what Emmart intended to be the entire second half. But ever the capable shooter, Zach Shiley played in the game's waning minutes to convert all four of his free throws and score seven points in his brief but successful return.
Zach Shiley's twin brother, Sam Shiley, like most everyone else on the court, seemed stymied by the Strasburg zone, as well as by the slow pace of the game. Though he quietly paced the Eagles with 12 points, Sam Shiley admitted he prefers Clarke County's scoring to be spread evenly throughout the team, as it was on Wednesday.
"Whoever we can get in on the action, we love to have that happen," Sam Shiley said. "It's not really as much of a positive to have one guy score about 30 points as it is to have everyone in on the scoring."
Clarke County saw points scored by 11 players, three of whom scored in double digits. Shaw and Ethan Emmart both scored 11.
Strasburg, on the other hand, closed out the game with only two field goals, and couldn't take advantage of Clarke County's foul trouble, shooting 6-of-11 from the free-throw line.
But Strasburg, too, showed glimmers of brilliance. The Rams' defense was a troubling wrench in Clarke County's offensive cogs; and the offense, sometimes apt to cough the ball up, committed only 17 turnovers.
Unfortunately for the Rams, their other scourge this season, being unable to score in long, beautiful bunches, was certainly present against the Eagles.
Strasburg shot 3-of-18 from the floor in the first quarter, and 2-of-14 in the fourth quarter.
"We can't always finish when we're where we want to be and get the ball there," Strasburg coach Millson French explained.
The Rams saw tremendous production from seniors Bub McKelvey and Brian Huttner, who scored 18 and 12 points, respectively; but of the four other Strasburg scorers, none had more than six points.