By Brad Fauber
Those in attendance for Strasburg's home contest with Bull Run District foe Madison County were treated with an exciting, back and forth affair -- for a half.
Strasburg held a 38-35 lead over the Mountaineers after the end of the first half, but the final two periods belonged entirely to the Rams. Strasburg outscored Madison County 27-10 in the third quarter alone, coasting to an 87-61 win and extending its win streak to seven games.
The win improves the Rams to 11-1 on the season, their best start in over 12 seasons.
"The first half I didn't think we played particularly well," Rams coach Millson French said. "But then, I think in the second half we played pretty darn good. We played well defensively, and I thought we executed well on offense. Our defense was creating turnovers, and we were getting the fast break, and we're pretty good on the break."
The offensive explosion for Strasburg (11-1, 4-1 Bull Run) began in the third period, but it was midway through the second quarter when the table began to turn on the Mountaineers.
Madison County (3-8, 1-4) took a 22-20 lead with just less than six minutes left in the first half when 6-foot-6 forward Matt Temple connected on a bucket in the paint. Strasburg then made the switch to full-court man-to-man defense, and Madison County struggled handling the ball under pressure.
The Rams forced five turnovers in the second period and used a 15-4 run to take a 35-26 lead with 1:22 left in the half. Juniors Tyler Doman and Jonathan Kloosterman combined for 12 of the points during the stretch.
Kloosterman finished the game with a double-double, scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Doman added 15 points and three steals for the Rams, and Matt Clutter (11 points) and Tyler Hott (10 points) were also in double-figures.
"When we started pressing I feel like they just felt under pressure and started turning the ball over," Doman said. "We started playing a lot better when the intensity picked up."
The defense continued for Strasburg in the second half as Madison County turned the ball over on two of its first three possessions of the third quarter, while the Rams scored on five straight possessions to quickly extend the lead to 48-39.
"They exposed our weaknesses," Mountaineers coach Ben Breeden said. "We don't have a lot good guard play right now. I thought they came out in the third quarter and continued the pressure outside the 3-point line and made it hard for us to get the ball inside."
A big blow to Madison County came in the third period when Temple, who had been an unstoppable force inside for the Mountaineers, picked up his fourth foul and was forced to go to the bench. Temple finished with 22 points on 11-of-12 shooting, with all but two points coming from inside the paint.
The Mountaineers had several players battling foul trouble all night, while Strasburg didn't commit a second-half foul until 6:01 remained in the fourth quarter.
Strasburg's defense forced seven turnovers in the third quarter, and the Rams hit 11 of 17 shots from the floor to take a 65-45 lead into the final period. Strasburg executed well on the fast break in the second half, which helped the Rams convert some easy looks under the basket.
"We came out fired up in the second half and played a lot better defense, and that helped get the momentum to our offense," said Kloosterman, who scored 16 points in the second half. "We've got a bunch of guys that can get it out there and make good decisions, so it helps getting those turnovers and getting 3-on-2's for easy layups."
Strasburg hit 35 of 63 (55.5 percent) shots, including an outstanding 8-for-17 mark from beyond the 3-point arc. The Rams also held a 33-23 rebounding advantage.
Strasburg will put its winning streak on the line when it hosts district rival Clarke County next Tuesday.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org