By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Strasburg got off to a fast start and held on for a 55-40 win over George Mason on Saturday in Bull Run District basketball action.
The Rams went on a 13-0 run over the last six minutes of the first half for a 31-12 halftime lead, and Tyler Hott poured in a career-high 23 points.
Hott, a senior guard, tallied three 3-pointers in the opening stanza, added one more trey in each of the second and third quarters, to finish 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in his career-best outing. He was also 6 for 6 from the free-throw line.
"We like to get on top quick, put the other team behind us, and keep going," Hott said. "We were really happy at the end of the second quarter, but we also knew [George Mason] has fight in them, and they were going to come out playing real hard in the second half, so we needed to keep going.
"A big focus point for me the last couple of weeks has been working on my free throws, so, tonight, it paid off."
Tyler Doman and Jonathan Kloosterman (on an offensive rebound put-back) added layups to give the Rams a 13-6 first-quarter lead.
Hott netted a four-footer on a drive into the lane to open the second quarter, then connected on his fourth trey one minute later.
Sophomore guard Douglas Mason came off the Mustangs' (6-12, 6-5 Bull Run) bench to knock down a 3-pointer, and tallied a conventional three on a short jumper and a free throw with 6:05 remaining in the frame.
Strasburg (16-2, 9-2 Bull Run) then put on a clinic with a 13-0 run to finish the half.
Five different Rams scored during the span, with Kloosterman contributing four (including his second put-back), two on a layup by Arkell Goring, two free throws by Hott, a free throw by Matthew Clutter, and two free-throws and a layup by Ryan Smoot.
Smoot's bucket came on his steal at three-quarters court and a drive to the hoop just before the halftime buzzer sounded, providing an emphatic conclusion to the Rams' blitz.
The Mustangs staged a modest recovery in the third quarter, edging the Rams, 15-13, by getting six points from senior forward William Nunley II (team-high 10), another 3-pointer from Mason and treys from senior forward Rand Walter and senior guard John Bourbeau.
Hott drained his fifth 3-pointer and went 2 for 2 at the charity stripe for the Rams in the third quarter, while new starter Arkell Goring contributed a field goal and assists to Clutter and Kloosterman, on a no-look pass, on the first of Kloosterman's two buckets in the frame.
Goring, a junior guard, contributed six points, six assists, and a block on the night.
Goring had been in the sixth man role for Strasburg, but moved into a starting role to replace sophomore Tommy Caison, who is no longer on the team.
Kloosterman gained double-double distinction for the Rams with 10 points, and 11 rebounds (three offensive).
"Our defense really stepped it up tonight," Kloosterman said. "We lost one of our starters [Caison], and we had to step it up tonight. Our defense led to our offense, and it just really helped us out."
The Rams defense allowed the Mustangs only eight two-pointers, while putting in 15 of their own.
Strasburg was also better from beyond the arc, going 5 for 11 on treys, to 5 for 16 for the Mustangs.
The Rams won the battle of the boards, with a 24-15 edge, and the squads were even in turnovers, with 13 each.
Strasburg topped the Mustangs, 59-52, in their first meeting of the season.
"We were playing really good defense [in the 13-0 run]," Rams coach Millson French said. "I thought our defense was pretty good all night, especially inside, and offensively we were playing pretty well, until the second half. I thought we got a little stagnant there a couple of times.
"We also did really well on the boards. In the first half it felt like we controlled the boards. [The Mustangs] didn't seem to have the energy they did at their home place."
The win solidified the Strasburg's hold on second place in the Bull Run District, 1.5 games behind William Monroe (10-0), which beat the Rams twice, and 2.5 games ahead of Clarke County (6-4).
Strasburg has away games at Madison County (3-7) on Wednesday and Clarke County on Friday, before closing out at the regular season at home against arch-rival Central (3-10) on Feb. 5.