By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The pace of the game was not to the liking of the Clarke County boys basketball team.
The Eagles could not rotate their defense well enough to get the number of turnovers needed to put Strasburg away in the first half of Thursday night's Bull Run District game, allowing the Rams to trail by just two at the break.
Several minutes into the second half, Clarke County got the speed it wanted and quickly turned the game in its favor. The Eagles scored 22 points in the third period and went on to a 57-40 win to keep a share of the district lead with idle Madison County.
"We kind of got our tempo in the third quarter," Clarke County coach Brent Emmart said. "That really kind of put the game where we wanted. We didn't want to panic. We just wanted to get some offense off our defense."
If the Eagles needed a push, senior forward Jeremy Rhoads provided just the lift with his play in close. Neither team scored until Rhoads scored a layup off a turnover possession with 5:38 left in the third period. Rhoads got another easy basket off another turnover by the Rams, and the Eagles (12-5, 4-0 Bull Run) began to play with more purpose.
Donovan Love got a basket to end an almost three-minute drought for Strasburg (4-12, 0-6), but Clarke County scored off its next four possessions to open a 13-point lead.
Sam Shiley nailed a 3-pointer off the right wing off a swing pass from Ethan Emmart, Ron Anderson drove the lane to score his only points, Shiley hustled for a rebound and hit a jumper from the foul line, and Stephan Bodkin hit a jumper off the glass for a 38-25 lead.
In the final 2:40, Rhoads scored six points, Emmart scored a conventional three-point play in transition, and Clarke County had the game safely in hand by the end of the period, up 47-29. The Eagles outscored the Rams 22-6 in the third, making 8-of-13 shots from the field and all five of their free throws.
Clarke County also got points on four of its five turnover possessions in the period.
"It was a big confidence issue -- kind of a quiet confidence," said Rhoads, who scored eight of his team-best 18 points in the third period. "We came out in the third quarter and we knew what we had to do. We had to come out and put it to them. We sped them up and once we pulled them out of their zone, they couldn't hang with us in man."
A huge factor in Clarke County breaking away was the continued solid play that Rhoads has provided the Eagles recently. Rhoads, who led the Eagles with nine rebounds, made all six of his field-goal attempts and 6-of-10 free throws, constantly causing the Rams concerns with his work around the basket.
"The last couple games [Rhoads has] really done well inside," Brent Emmart said. "He does all the hard work in the weight room and he's an inmovable object in the paint. We call him our enforcer."
The win increased Clarke County's win streak to eight, and the Eagles know to continue playing well. They will have to do it without last season's leading scorer, Zach Shiley. A break to the same leg Shiley fractured during football season has ended the senior's basketball season after only two games played, but that's doesn't mean his presence has been lost completely with his teammates.
"We started off the season a little rough," Rhoads said. "I think what was a big key [for the turnaround] was when Zach Shiley came back. He's a great team motivator and he really got a fire burning in us. Even though he's not out there, we can still feel it on the bench and that momentum stlll carries over from what he brought [to the court]."
Zach's twin brother, Sam Shiley, is still around. After a foul-plagued first half limited him to four points, Sam Shiley got nine in the second half and finished with 13 points.
The Eagles made up for 23 turnovers by shooting 50 percent (20-for-40) from the field.
The Rams hung tough in the first half with a strong will to stay competitive. Strasburg managed a couple of one-point leads and were deadlocked with Clarke County until the final possession of the first half. The Eagles got the ball back with 30 seconds left and played for one shot. Ethan Emmart attempted a tough 3-pointer off the right wing that missed, but Rhoads was there to clean up and his tip-in beat the buzzer for a 25-23 lead.
The Rams felt like plenty of opportunities went wasted early on. They missed several easy layups, went just 10-for-16 from the foul line, and had 11 turnovers in the first half.
Then in the third period, Strasburg could make just three baskets. The Rams suffered through another cold shooting night, making just 11 field goals and shooting 25 percent from the field and missing 11 free throws to shoot 58 percent in that department.
"It's been a frustrating year for the kids and a frustrating year for the coaching staff," Strasburg coach Millson French said. "They're good kids and they're working hard. But for whatever the reason, we just can't get over the hump.
"Every game we have a quarter or we have a stretch where we either turn it over or our shots aren't going. And, the other team is scoring. You've got to play four [quarters]."
Strasburg's Bub McKelvey scored a game-high 19 points, which included making 10-of-15 free throws. Brian Huttner added eight points for the Rams.