By Tommy Keeler Jr.
In a game that was a defensive struggle throughout the first half, Page County's offense came to life in the second half. The Panthers used a strong third quarter to pull away with a 41-22 nondistrict girls basketball win over Strasburg on Wednesday night.
The Rams went 8:29 without a basket in the first half, but still trailed only 16-10 at the half.
The Panthers opened up the second half with a 7-0 run, aided by three Strasburg turnovers, and didn't look back the rest of the way.
"We forced a couple turnovers and scored quickly off of them," Page County coach Ralph Viafora said. "That's kind of what you got to do in girls basketball. You gotta be aggressive off of turnovers. I think that was a big spurt there. We hit a couple baskets and they didn't."
Strasburg's Kenzy McKelvey drained a 3-pointer with 5:02 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-13. The Panthers responded with a 10-0 run.
Four different players scored for the Panthers during the run, and the Rams turned the ball over six more times during the spurt, while attempting only two shots.
Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said the Rams' struggles on offense had a big effect on the rest of their game.
"The bottom line is you gotta score, and scoring fixes everything," Morgan said. "We did good enough on defense. They wouldn't have had 40 points if we would've played better on the offensive end, because if you play better there your defense is better. You lose your energy when you can't score. It wasn't a good night."
Strasburg (2-8, 2-2 Bull Run) closed out the third quarter with baskets by Rachel Funkhouser and Katie Dofermire to cut the lead to 31-17. The Panthers went 4:52 without scoring, including the first 3:24 of the fourth quarter, but the Rams only managed two points early in the final quarter.
Page County (6-5, 1-3 Shenandoah) closed out the game on a 10-3 run to seal the victory.
The Panthers started the game strong as freshman Katelyn Gordon scored four points to help them build a 9-4 lead. The Rams responded with a 3-pointer by McKelvey and a free throw by Dofermire to cut the lead to 9-8 after the first quarter.
It appeared as if the Panthers were going to pull away in the second quarter as Gordon scored four more points during a 6-0 run to take a 16-8 lead. The 5-foot-8 Gordon finished with a game-high 13 points for Page County.
"She's still learning to play," Viafora said of Gordon's play. "She's a freshman, and we knew all along she was going to be a help to us. She was one of the leading scorers last year on the JV team."
The Panthers didn't score for the last 5:09 of the first half, but the Rams suffered an even worse drought, going 8:29 without a basket. Mikala Alsberry scored inside the paint to cut the lead to 16-10 with 25 seconds left in the first half.
Caitlin Viafora had nine points for the Panthers, who had eight different players score during the game.
"I think we distributed the ball well," Ralph Viafora said. "We had a lot of kids score. And that's kind of been our motto this year. We've got 7,8, 9, 10 kids scoring every night. Nobody's really a 20-point gamer, but we got some kids that can put points on the board."
McKelvey and Dofermire led the Rams with six points each. Morgan said his team just has to keep working on getting better.
"You gotta go back to work and see if you can get a little better," Morgan said. "You got Madison on Friday night. I know we can play better. We're not doing it very consistent right now. It's just something that we just gotta keep plugging away and see if we can get a little better. And we'll see what happens."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com