By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- With Strasburg holding on to a slim lead heading into the second half of its girls basketball game with Warren County, Ram point guard Katlyn Ayers found a weakness in the Wildcats defense and exploited it for 18 second-half points to lead Strasburg to a convincing 42-32 victory Monday.
The win was even sweeter since it was the Rams' (2-3) home opener of the season. For Warren County (3-3) it was a case of too many turnovers and not enough consistency shooting.
"It was very important to us that we win our first home game," Ayers said. "So, we're all very happy right now."
The game began as a comedy of offensive errors as defense dominated play. Both teams missed their first three attempts from the field as the Wildcats' zone and the Rams' aggressive man-to-man defense put good shots at a premium.
"It was a very good win for us," Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. "I thought we did a good job on Alesha Adams. She's a very good player, and our kids made it tough for her to get good shots."
Warren County guard Kelly Martin finally got some points on the scoreboard with a jumper with 5:37 left in the first quarter, but neither side was able to break away until the final minute of the period.
With six seconds on the clock and the score tied 5-5, Morgan decided to put Brandy Clem in the game. It was one of those coaching decisions that made Morgan smile after the game.
"Sometimes you get a little lucky," Morgan said. "I could say that it was pure skill, but there was really a lot of luck involved. It was a good lift going into the break though."
Clem took the ball with two seconds left and launched a 3-pointer. She was also fouled by Warren County's Gabby Turner as the ball sailed into the net. Clem stepped to the line and completed the four-point play to put the Rams up 9-5 heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was a repeat of the first, minus Clem's last-second heroics. Warren County missed its first five field-goal attempts and the Rams missed their first two.
Add four turnovers by Strasburg and another seven by the Wildcats, and the two teams combined for less than 10 points in the period.
But with the Rams clinging to a 14-9 lead to begin the second half, both teams picked up the pace and the scoring.
Strasburg pulled ahead 19-11 after five points by Ayers over 16 seconds early in the third quarter. Then Warren County finally came alive offensively.
The Wildcats went on a 9-0 run over the next two minutes of play to take the lead 20-19 on a tip-in by Lauren Woodrell.
Unfortunately for Warren County, that proved to be its last solid moment of play offensively.
From that moment forward Ayers and Clem took over the game and left the Wildcats in the dust.
Ayers scored nine third-quarter points by driving to the basket through the middle of the Warren County zone. The Ram senior not only made the buckets, but drew fouls that turned the game around.
"I really didn't think that I played very well in the first half," Ayers said. "I didn't play as hard as I should have. I focused more in the second half and saw the floor better."
Ayers finished with a game-high 20 points, all but two of which came in the second half.
"Katlyn [Ayers] did a very good job in the second half for us," Morgan said. "She was driving the lane and drawing fouls, and she made all 10 of her free throws, too."
Clem also made her presence felt, scoring four of her 13 points in the period.
With Ayers and Clem finally getting the Rams' offense in gear, Strasburg led 27-24 with just eight minutes to play.
The final period turned into more of the same, with Ayers driving the lane relentlessly and drawing fouls. Her effort produced nine fourth-quarter points, including a perfect 7-of-7 from the line.
Warren County didn't help its cause by shooting just 3-of-11 from the field in the final period.
The Rams were able to use the momentum generated by Ayers to finish the game on a 4-0 run.
"This was a good team effort," Morgan said. "I thought our kids really played well."
Adams led Warren County with 10 points.