By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK - In a warped, twisted sort of way, the girls basketball game between Strasburg and Central on Friday night was basketball in its basest, most elemental form. It was basketball without rules. Basketball without forethought and without hindsight.
Scoring came and went Friday night: It was a feeding frenzy in some instances, a hunger strike in others.
It was, for lack of a better description, a game of street ball.
"Yeah, it felt a little bit like open gym sometimes," Strasburg forward Jenna Smoot said.
When all was said and done, and the Central scoreboard glowed an uninspiring final score of 51-27, in Strasburg's favor, both teams had combined for 39 fouls and 57 turnovers.
The first field goal of the game failed to make an appearance until 2:31 had elapsed, and the next one didn't come until nearly a minute-and-a-half later. In that first quarter alone, Strasburg (11-0, 1-0 Bull Run) made twice as many free throws (six) as field goals (three); Central, having fouled Strasburg seven times in the opening quarter, had none to give in the second.
The Rams, with four fouls through eight minutes, weren't too far behind.
"We definitely didn't play the type of basketball that we practice and that we're used to playing," Central coach Stephanie Mathews said.
Strasburg coach Joel Morgan, too, noted that Friday night's showing was an atypical example of how his Rams normally play.
"We were pressing, we were playing aggressive, and that's the way we play," he explained. "We do try to teach the kids that we want them to play without fouling, but it was a very aggressive game."
With both teams pressing, and both teams running on a tank full of the nerve-wracking emotion that comes with playing in a Shenandoah County rivalry game, the girls fell to exhaustion, and their shots fell short, and their passes fell listless.
With their bodies shuttling up and down the Woodstock hardwood, it seemed the girls' minds were in a fog. In a haze.
Open layups were missed, as were freethrows, and uncontested passes wiggled through open arms and out of bounds. For some inexplicable reason, nothing went right for either team.
"We were both really tough, we were both fouling like crazy ... it was hard," said Strasburg guard Jaclyn Ayers, who had a game-high 19 points. "We couldn't get our offense running at the beginning or really through the game."
And no matter how hard both teams tried to find some sort of spark or rhythm, no matter how many timeouts Morgan called, or how often he told the Rams to slow it down, the game's story had already been written, and there was no changing the script.
"I think everyone was kind of in a funk," Smoot said. "I think people got too involved in the crowd and everything that was going on around them, which is easy to do in a situation like this, especially when you're playing in a gym like this one was tonight."
Central's gym, dubbed "The Nest" by Falcon fans, is renowned throughout the area for being as loud as local high school gyms get. And Friday night was no exception.
"I just love playing Central, I know a lot of the girls are like that," Ayers said. "Just the intensity that we get, and the fans and the crowd.
"I think the game itself -- just who we were playing, the rivalry -- I think that had a lot to do with it. But I think we all had a lot of fun, it was a fun game to play, definitely."
Smoot scored 14 points for Strasburg, while Rebecca Sigler was the high-scorer for Central with eight points.