By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Senior guard Tyler Hott got hot when Strasburg needed it most, scoring 10 of the Rams' 13 fourth-quarter points, including going 5-for-6 at the free-throw line in the final 27 seconds, nailing down a 55-48 win over a pesky visiting Moorefield (W.Va.) Yellow Jackets squad Saturday night.
Hott's other fourth period points were the Rams third, and final, 3-pointer of the game, and a layup that broke at 46-46 tie with 3:40 remaining in the contest.
Hott also tallied four points in the second period to finish with 14 on the night.
Garret Keller hit a 14-footer for Moorefield to knot the score at 48-48 with 3:16 remaining, but that was the last Yellow Jackets shot to find the bottom of the net.
Moorefield out-gunned Strasburg on three-pointers for the game, sinking 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from downtown, while the Rams were able to connect on only three of 16 (18.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
Hott excelled in making unhindered 15-footers from the charity stripe in the final quarter, while Moorefield went 0-for-4 on free throws over the final 1:44, including missing the front end of two one-and-one opportunities.
The Rams (4-0) were 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) at the charity stripe.
"[On free-throws] I work myself through the shot, get good guide hand-off, and follow through, and shut everything else out of my head," Hott said.
Hott's defense also helped keep the Yellow Jackets off the rails in the closing seconds, stealing a Moorefield in-bound pass, off a deflection by Tommy Caison with 25 seconds remaining on the game clock.
"We needed to get better, defensively, for sure," Hott said. "We needed to get out on their shooters, and on offense, we needed to work the ball, run the offense nice and smooth, and get open looks. We definitely just tried to run clock once we got the lead, make our foul shots, and finish the game."
Jonathan Kloosterman was Strasburg's major offensive force earlier in the game, dumping in 12 points in the first half, and adding four in the third period.
Kloosterman's lone fourth period bucket, giving him a game-high 18, was a nifty two-foot turn-around that broke the 48-48 tie at the 1:03 mark.
Kloosterman earned double-double status for the contest with a game-high 12 rebounds (eight offensive).
"We were forcing things during the third quarter, so we had to slow it down a little bit and run our offense and get to the rim for some easy layups," Kloosterman said.
The Yellow Jackets acquitted themselves well in their season opener.
Sophomore guard Austin Williams had the hot hand early for Moorefield, connecting on a 3-pointer, a layup and two free throws in the first quarter.
Williams then drained back-to-back treys in the first 1:30 of the second frame, for a team-high 13 points. Adam Snyder followed with a field goal, and Keller sank a 3-pointer, for an 11-2 run giving Moorefield a 25-17 lead with 5:15 left in the first half.
The Rams then shut down Williams for the remainder of the contest.
"Austin Williams had a nice beginning of the game," Moorefield coach Patrick MacGregor said. "Then they did a good job adjusting, and got out on him and wouldn't let him get [another] 3-point ball."
Moorefield then went cold as the Rams responded with an 11-0 run over the last three minutes of the frame, to take a 28-25 lead into halftime.
"After it was 48-48, we had the ball for the more than a minute," MacGregor said. "It seemed like forever, and we couldn't get to the foul line, couldn't get anything.
"The foul line at the end hurt -- it was very critical. Our best free-throw shooter, Garret Keller, missed the front end of his one-on-one. We just didn't clutch-out."
"Defensively, we'd have our moments where we played pretty well, and we'd have some moments where we didn't get out on shooters," Rams coach Millson French said. "We got focused on the ball too much, not where our [assigned] man was. Offensively, we were doing too much dribbling, and not enough ball movement in the fourth quarter. This was our third game in six days, so I thought we were leg-weary, and our perimeter shooting was affected.
"We feel pretty good about [our 4-0 start]. To do that we had come back from 15 down at the half against Page County [61-59 win on Thursday], and tonight it wasn't a pretty game. It was like pulling teeth, but we're glad to get the win."