By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's performance in Monday's loss to Shenandoah District foe Luray is one that the Generals probably hope they will soon forget -- then again, maybe not.
The Generals were outplayed in nearly every facet of the game and struggled all night to find any offensive consistency. The result was a 52-31 thumping at the hands of the visiting Bulldogs.
Stonewall Jackson has taken a huge leap forward this season in the rebuilding of a struggling program, but Monday was a painful reminder of how far the Generals still have to come. Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said he hopes his players learn from Monday's loss.
"No, I don't want them to forget it," Smoot said the Generals' performance. "Luray out-hustled us, Luray outplayed us, they outworked us. They came out, they smacked us early and we didn't do what we needed to do. Murphy's Law took over -- everything that could go wrong went wrong. They did what they wanted to and they beat us pretty good.
"This one better hurt. If it doesn't, we don't deserve to be playing a game."
Stonewall Jackson's long night began as soon as the Generals corralled the opening tip and promptly turned the ball over on the game's opening possession. Luray senior Braden Cook took advantage by scoring on a fast-break layup on the other end to quickly give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
That started a 9-0 run by Luray (8-11, 5-6 Shenandoah) to open the game, as Stonewall Jackson (7-10, 5-6) was held scoreless for the first four and a half minutes of the contest. Generals junior Colton Harlow finally broke the dry spell when he swiped a Luray pass and turned it into a layup with 3:25 to play in the opening period.
Stonewall Jackson struggled all night against Luray's half-court zone, which included a mixture of 2-3, 3-2 and extended 2-1-2 looks. The Generals shot just 24 percent (12 for 50) from the floor in the game.
"When you don't pass the ball well, when you don't attack a zone, when you don't shoot, when you don't finish layups -- that's why you shoot 24 percent," Smoot said. "Our outside jumpers didn't fall and our inside shots didn't fall -- pick your poison."
Stonewall Jackson was able to cut the deficit to 12-8 at the end of the first period with a 6-0 run, but the Bulldogs quickly extended the lead to 10 points in the second period. Cook opened the quarter with a 3-pointer just 12 seconds in, and junior Malcolm Frye (game-high 18 points) converted a traditional three-point play to give Luray an 18-8 lead with 6:15 left in the first half.
The Generals received a boost a few minutes later when senior Trey Alger hit a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds pass while drawing a foul, and Alger converted the four-point play to cut Luray's lead to 18-14 with 4:06 to play in the second period.
Stonewall Jackson pulled to within two points when senior Matt Litten knocked down a deep jumper from the right wing later in the quarter, but the Bulldogs closed the half on a 5-0 run to take a 25-18 lead into intermission.
Luray coach Jim Sanders said the difference between Monday's victory and the Bulldogs' 56-50 loss to the Generals on Dec. 20 was the effort by Luray on the defensive end.
"Really, it's just a matter of us playing hard. If we don't play hard playing that [zone], we're going to get killed," Sanders said. "The first time we played against them, we didn't play real hard and they took it right at us and took advantage of us."
Luray kept up the defensive pressure in the third period and forced Stonewall Jackson into four turnovers in its first six possessions, which helped the Bulldogs build a comfortable 34-20 lead midway through the third quarter. Luray took a 40-24 lead into the final period.
The Generals hit just 2 of 12 shots in the period, including a bucket in the paint by junior Daniel Buhl with five seconds remaining in the frame.
Stonewall Jackson's horrendous offensive night was capped by a fourth quarter that included nine turnovers and a three and a half minute scoring drought that lasted until Harlow -- who scored 17 of the Generals' 31 points -- scored four points over the final 27 seconds of the game.
Monday's loss drops Stonewall Jackson into a fifth-place tie in the district with Luray. The Generals have three games left -- all in the district -- beginning tonight on the road against district-leader Page County.
"We need to re-evaluate our goals, they've obviously changed from the beginning of the year," Smoot said. "I don't think I've done a great job of explaining that to the kids. They are playing for a lot and they aren't used to that.
"They need to learn that ... if they play 100 percent and give it everything they've got when they step on the court, everything will take care of itself."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com