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Rams happy to have shot as an underdog

By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

Strasburg senior Bub McKelvey knows what it's like to be the underdog. But, as he says, being the long shot still means there's a chance.

"I don't really mind the underdog role," McKelvey said. "I'd rather be the underdog than not [be] in there at all."

McKelvey and the rest of the Rams will get the chance to start their Cinderella run today, as they'll face Buckingham County in the first round of the Regional B boys basketball tournament.

It's been a tough season for Strasburg. After opening the season with a respectable 4-5 record, the Rams went on a tailspin, dropping seven straight games to fall to 4-12. During that stretch Strasburg's offense suffered, scoring more than 60 points just once and failing to win a game for more than three weeks.

Things seemed to get worse for the Rams in the district tournament, where they were dominated by top-seeded Madison County. The Mountaineers opened up a 56-11 first-half lead, en route to a double-digit blowout, leaving coach Millson French unsure of how his team will be able to respond tonight.

"Well, I'm not sure what our confidence level is right now," French said. "We got worked on pretty good over at Madison, so I don't think that does anything to improve your confidence, but in order for us to have any chance against Buckingham we're going to have to be able to play with some confidence and take care of the basketball. So we're going to have to get it turned around in a short period of time if we want to have any kind of success against them."

Defeating Buckingham won't be easy, however. The Knights come into the game with a 16-3 record, and feature a towering duo down low. French said their toughest player is forward Taylor Boyers.

Boyers, who stands at 6-foot-3, will likely force the Rams to pay close attention to Buckingham's inside game, where rebounding and penetration will be key factors.

"One thing I've heard from the coaches is that they're really athletic," McKelvey said. "They don't shoot a lot from the outside and they've got some big post players in there."

As the senior point guard for the Rams, McKelvey's job starts at the top of the point, where he'll have to make sure his team is in control, particularly on the offensive end. McKelvey is averaging just under 14 points and two assists per game this season, and knows his job is to make sure the turnovers are kept to a minimum.

"It's my job not only to lead, but call the right plays a lot," he said. "And they press a lot, so we've got to break the press and that's the job of the point guard to organize against that."

If Strasburg is able to pull off the upset today, the Rams face the winner between Central and district rival Clarke County. The Falcons and Eagles will face off today at Clarke County to see who will advance to the second round of the tournament.

But before Strasburg can worry about either Central or Clarke County, the Rams have to make sure they're prepared for a Buckingham team that's out to make sure the glass slipper doesn't fit this potential Cinderella team.

"They're an outstanding basketball team and we're going to have to play really well," French said.

"Hopefully they're not going to bring their 'A' game. Hopefully they'll overlook us a little bit because we're the eighth seed."


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