By Jeff Nations
So long to the streak.
Strasburg High School's boys basketball team actually entered Tuesday night's Bull Run District matchup against visiting Clarke County riding two streaks -- one positive, the other decidedly not.
Winners of seven straight, the Rams were looking to break a 12-year stretch of consecutive losses to the Eagles since last beating them back in 2001.
Clarke County (4-9, 3-3 Bull Run) didn't go easy, but the Rams held off the Eagles' fast finish for a 68-65 victory.
"We almost gave it back to them again tonight," Rams coach Millson French said. "We've given them a couple over the years. Most of them they've taken, but there's been a couple times when we kind of did some of the stuff you saw us do out here tonight."
Holding a comfortable 10-point lead after Jonathan Kloosterman's offensive putback made it 65-55 with 1:26 to play, Strasburg (12-1, 5-1 Bull Run) proceeded to provide plenty of life support for their longtime rival over the last minute.
Davey Hardesty answered Kloosterman's bucket with a 3-pointer, then Cody Taylor drew a foul for double bonus and hit both free throws to cut the margin to five with a minute left.
On Clarke's next possession after Tyler Hott made a one of two free throws for the Rams, Taylor drew another foul on a 3-point try. He made two to keep his team within four. After another free throw from Strasburg's Matt Clutter, Sean McDonald energized the Eagles with a 3-pointer to pull his team within two with 39 seconds to play.
The Eagles held on defense, but Hardesty missed a jumper that could have tied it. Kloosterman snared the rebound, drew the foul and hit the second of two free throws.
Down three with eight seconds to play, the Eagles did get off a desperation heave by Taylor that hit the top of the backboard as time expired.
"Coach French said this was going to be a tough one," Strasburg junior Arkell Goring said. "We were just going to have to come out here and work hard."
Goring did his part, as the Rams' standout sixth man provided plenty of offensive spark with eight fourth-quarter points. He finished with 15 and added five rebounds.
"I thought Arkell had a great game," French said. "He was able to get to the rim, he was able to rebound and he was so strong in there he was able to put the ball up through arms and after contact. Some of our other guys can't do that, but he can."
Clarke County jumped out to an 8-1 lead to open the game, but the Rams stormed back to lead 15-10 by the end of the first quarter.
Strasburg kept right on rolling in the second quarter, leading by as many as nine on Clutter's 3-pointer. The Eagles came right back, putting together a 7-2 run over the last 1:11 of the first half to draw within 29-28 at the break.
"We missed some shots," Clarke County coach Brent Emmart said. "We were very stagnant on offense -- our offense didn't have any flow once again tonight. Everything was a battle, everything we got offensively was a struggle."
Hott (team-high 17 points) helped the Rams keep pace in the third quarter, which ended in a 42-all deadlock.
Goring's big fourth quarter, plus a clutch 3-pointer from Tommy Caison, helped push the Rams over the top.
"They hit some pretty tough shots out there, too, but we were making mistakes shooting jump shots, making fouls," Goring said. "Honestly we got lucky tonight when he missed that last 3."
Hardesty led all scorers with 18 points. Taylor added 14 and Todd Benton chipped in 13 for the Eagles, whose rally simply ran out of steam at the end.
"Those possessions at the end are so magnified because of the finality of the game," Emmart said. "All the possessions leading up to that 10-point lead killed us. Our transition defense was bad, they posted us up, played inside out and had good looks."
In addition to Hott and Goring, Clutter also reached double digits with 10 points in what was another solid collective effort.
"We have the right pieces," Hott said. "We just need to keep flowing together, building more chemistry and then the sky's the limit."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at (540) 465-5137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org