By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The 2012 Ram Hardwood Classic kicked off Friday night and the nightcap pitted Warren County against Strasburg in what was expected to be a duel between a pair of teams with a lot of energy.
There were very few lackluster moments on the evening with both squads racing up and down the court on each possession. Strasburg proved to be the more dominant team quickly building a double-digit lead they would fail to relinquish as they cruised to an 86-64 victory.
"We played pretty well tonight," Strasburg coach Millson French said. "We did a good job against the press, and we took the ball to the basket on offense. We did an excellent job of passing and finishing tonight, and that was a key to how well we handled their style of play."
While an up-tempo style wasn't expected to be much of a challenge for the potent Rams attack, the full-court pressure that the Wildcats utilize on defense was expected to keep Strasburg on their toes.
The Rams, however, seemed almost at ease as they worked the ball up the court behind the leadership and ball handling of Tyler Hott. The senior guard was able to not only break the defense, but distribute the ball well early on leading to a balanced Rams attack.
Six different Strasburg players scored in the opening period with Tommy Caison starting the game with a 3-pointer and then knocking down a floater in the lane to score the Rams first five points of the night. Hott also was able to contribute four points early and Jonathan Kloosterman scored eight of his 26 points in the first period.
"They handled our pressure really well," Warren County coach Vernon Mathews said. "We didn't rotate on defense and we didn't get back on turnovers and transition defense which led to a lot of easy baskets by them."
Warren County battled early, but turnovers helped contribute to an eight-point run by the Rams near the end of the period resulting a in a 26-16 deficit after the first period of play.
Strasburg (9-1, 3-1 Bull Run) continued to outpace the Wildcats with a 10-1 run to start the second period opening its lead to as many as 21 points. Warren County (4-4) would not fold, however, continuing to pressure the basketball with dividends beginning to take shape midway through the period.
Matt Nicholson sparked a 12-2 stretch for the Wildcats with eight consecutive points to begin the run. Nicholson often found himself at the foul line after being hacked when penetrating the defense in the lane. A basket by Shivam Mehta was anchored with another Nicholson score, this time a reverse slam on a breakaway following a steal.
Warren County (was able to cut the lead in half before intermission, but pulled within single digits. The Wildcats scored four to begin the second half before Strasburg began another streak of dominance. Again it was Kloosterman bolstering the attack and coupled with some nifty moves by Arkell Goring, who sliced through the Wildcats' defense to the basket, the Rams opened the lead back to 21 by the end of the quarter.
Strasburg did not falter the rest of the evening stretching its lead to as many as 32 points, cruising to victory and setting up a matchup against James Wood in the championship game on Saturday.
"We have a very talented group that plays hard and never quits," French said. "We have several players that can score and make good decisions on the floor and that is a big part of the reason why we are what our record says we are right now."