By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- So far this season, the Strasburg Rams have played with most of their opponents defensively. Applying pressure, forcing turnovers, and an all out hustle has kept the team in most games.
Unfortunately, the offense has not been able to keep up with the defense, leading to many difficult outcomes leading up to Wednesday's game against Manassas Park. With nearly a week off from play, the Rams hoped to turn the tide against a Cougars team that has not fared much better.
The Rams will have to look ahead to their next game if they want to make the transition after a tough night shooting from the field was key in a 53-41 loss to the Cougars.
"We had too many turnovers early on," Rams coach Millson French said. "We did a much better job in the second half controlling the ball, but the biggest key tonight was that we couldn't hit shots. We had some good looks and good opportunities and it was like there was a lid on the basket. It's difficult to win when you only shoot 26 percent from the field."
Early in the game, both teams found it difficult to establish any offensive threat as turnovers and missed opportunities didn't allow either team to build momentum. The Rams struggled while recording 12 turnovers in the first half, and when they were able to run their offense they could not knock down their shots.
The Cougars did not fare much better early on, only scoring six points in the first period, but they began to find their footing once the second quarter began. Attempting to work into the paint, Manassas Park started quickly when Desmond McDonald and Dwight Becton each converted on two conventional three-point plays.
The Cougars then took their first lead of the game when McDonald sank a 3-point shot from the arc. Teammate Joey Gaouette scored the final six points of the first half to give his team a two-point lead heading into the break.
"I think we came out overconfident in our shooting early on," Cougars coach Verdell Robinson said. "I told the guys to calm down and to pick up our shots. We did much better once we calmed down. A few guys got hot and we did what we have been doing all year and that is keep feeding the ball to the guy that's hot."
When the two teams went back to the floor to start the third quarter, it appeared that each had found a rhythm on offense as they battled back and forth with four 3-pointers during the frame.
Strasburg appeared to be well within reach as the final quarter got underway but the offense reverted, again unable to find the bottom of the net. The Cougars marched ahead to a nine-point lead with two minutes remaining and forced the Rams to foul. Manassas Park maintained its lead, preserving the victory by converting 8-of-14 free throws during the stretch.
"We turned up the pressure in the last two minutes, hoping to slow them down and not allow them to push the ball," Robinson said. "They did a great job with the clock. That is probably the longest minute I have seen in a game of basketball. I am just proud of our guys. They did a wonderful job from the foul line and knocking down enough shots when we needed them to get the win."
With the season winding down, the Rams continue to emphasize the need for improvement on offense in order to finish strong and give themselves the best opportunity heading into district tournament play.
"We did a good job and kept playing defense throughout the game," French said. "Defense is not our problem. We have played well all year on defense, but it's our offensive woes that need to be fixed. I think we have made progress and are on our way. We did a good job of being patient and setting our offense tonight, we just couldn't make any shots."