By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson faced its most difficult Shenandoah District test of the season on Friday night. The resurgent Generals hosted first-place Page County. The Generals hung tough with the Panthers for a half before Page County pulled away for a 61-45 boys basketball victory.
The Generals won only one game last year and have struggled for a number of years, but this season have started to turn things around. They entered the game tied for second place with a 3-1 district record. The Generals started the game off slowly, and coach Patrick Smoot said he wasn't sure if it was pre-game jitters or not.
"I don't know if we were tentative or if we were anxious," Smoot said. "I don't know which one it was, but we just couldn't execute what we needed to do."
The Panthers (10-3, 5-0 Shenandoah) were able to race out to a 14-4 lead with 3:10 left in the first quarter. The Generals had five turnovers during the slow start, but the team responded.
A 3-pointer by Colton Harlow helped spark an 8-2 run for the Generals and cut the lead to 16-12 after the first quarter.
Page County used an 11-2 run to take a 34-18 lead with 1:43 left in the first half. The Generals had 11 turnovers in the first half, which helped lead to easy baskets for the Panthers.
Stonewall Jackson (4-5, 3-2 Shenandoah) battled back at the end of the first half. The Generals used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 34-25 at the half, aided by a 3-pointer from Trey Alger.
Alger scored again to start off the second half to cut the lead to 34-27, but that would be as close as the Generals would get the rest of the way.
Page County turned the tables on the Generals as the Panthers ended the third quarter on a big spurt. The Panthers scored the last seven points of the third quarter to pull ahead 46-32. The Generals had nine turnovers in the third quarter.
"We settled down and we started chipping away at the lead, and all of a sudden we lose focus of what got us where we've been and where we are," Smoot said. "And we end up with the result that we got tonight.
"[We made] bad passes, just not looking where it was going. Lobbing passes that shouldn't have been lobbed. Trying to dribble too much against the zone. We just didn't execute the fundamentals of basketball."
Harlow drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, but the Panthers put the game away with a 14-4 run.
Page County coach Mike Purdham said he was pleased with how his team played in the second half.
"I think in the second half our defensive intensity picked up," Purdham said. "I thought we played pretty well in the second half."
Timothy Brown led the Panthers with 14 points, while Kolton Shuler added 12.
Purdham said he was impressed with the Generals, and his program was once just like theirs.
"Eventually you know you're going to have a turnaround and right now is their turnaround," Purdham said. "They're a legit team. When you say Stonewall Jackson now, you're talking about a basketball team."
Ryan Smith led the Generals with 11 points, while Harlow added 10.
"We have a great team. We have great players," Smoot said. "If we could just get these great players and this great team to form together full-heartedly, 100 percent, it will be a tough team to beat. But until we mold together as a group, and do what makes Stonewall successful as a team, we will always be inconsistent."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com