By Greg Brill - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Sometimes you've just got to respect your opponent a little better.
At least that was the feeling Strasburg boys basketball coach Millson French had Friday night after his Rams had to fight off a Stonewall Jackson team that has gone two years since it last won a game.
"In my opinion, it was ugly the whole game," French said after the Rams came away with a 40-24 win. "We didn't have the adrenaline that you need and we weren't ready to play. It's just that sometimes you don't give your opponent the proper respect as you need to give them. They read the paper and see lopsided scores. I've dealt with this for 40 years, so it's nothing unusual. Usually [once] you get in games like that, you can't get loose balls, you can't get rebounds, you can't make perimeter shots.
"We told them at halftime, 'You've got to take it to the rim.' We started doing that and we started taking it to the basket. And we started getting a little working margin there."
The Generals lost all 16 games they played last season and had started 0-4 this season under first-season coach Bill Simmons. However, Stonewall Jackson trailed just 16-14 at the break Friday and were primed to pick up a victory.
"We couldn't have been more thrilled," Simmons said. "We wish we could have got more shots to fall. It would have been nice to go into halftime with a lead. I think it would have given our players more confidence to hit shots in the third quarter."
The Generals were so excited by their play that they were back on the floor for warmups for the second half just three minutes after the horn blew to end the first half.
Coming off a four-point, six-turnover outing in the second quarter, Strasburg was determined to put its lackluster performance behind it.
After all, the Rams (1-1) still had two periods to get things right.
"We came out [for the third quarter] with a lot more intensity and we tried to pressure them a little more on defense and take the ball to the basket instead of settling for long jump shots," said Strasburg senior guard Zach Cover, who scored six points in the game. "We tried to get the ball in the paint and tried to maybe get them into some foul trouble."
To open the second half, a short baseline jumper in transition from Cover gave the Rams an instant spark. A short time later, the Generals got their own shot to drop from the perimeter from Lamond Morrison with 5:21 left to cut Strasburg's lead to 19-16.
The basket by Morrison would represent the first and last points scored for the Generals in the third period.
Meanwhile, Strasburg ran off the final 10 points of the period to head into the fourth with a comfortable 29-16 lead. Five different players scored during the 10-0 run by the Rams and six of the points came off turnovers.
In the third period, Stonewall Jackson made just 1 of 9 shots and had 10 turnovers.
"I think it comes down to not hitting shots," Simmons said. "There definitely were a couple plays where we turned the ball over with no pressure on us at all, and [Strasburg] swung the momentum towards their way.
"I bet if you go back and look at the film, there's a couple of shots where we're wide open, and if you hit those shots, it's a little bit tighter."
The Rams lead grew to as much as 17 in the fourth period and French ended up using 14 players in the game.
Neither team had a double-digit scorer. Tyler Hott led Strasburg with eight points and Aaron Doman added seven. Stonewall Jackson got eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds from Alexander Collins.
Strasburg faces one of the Shenandoah District's toughest teams, Page County, tonight at home.
"We'll need to play a lot better," Cover said. "We need to put this [game] behind us and look forward to not coming out as flat as we did [Friday]. We'll need to have more intensity, try and work the ball, and put the ball in the basket better."