By Jeff Nations
Tyler Hott could easily have suffered from sensory overload on Tuesday night.
One of two seniors on Strasburg High School's boys basketball team, Hott had to deal with the knowledge that he was playing his final regular-season game, on his home floor no less.
But wait, there's more -- Hott knew all too well that Strasburg's long-time coach, Millson French, was also entering is final regular-season game before retiring after the season.
Oh yeah, arch-rival Central just happened to be the Rams' opponent on Tuesday.
Plenty of pressure, but Hott helped the Rams pull off a perfect ending with a 68-61 victory that locked up the second seed in the upcoming Bull Run District tournament.
"It was very emotional," Hott said. "Senior night against Central, it's something special. You know that at the very beginning. And to come in here and get a win ... I'm proud of our team. We played a [great] game."
The pregame ceremonies were lengthy, with Hott joining fellow senior Oscar Berglund at center court for the traditional recognition. Then it was French's turn -- after 39 seasons coaching at Strasburg, he'll be retiring after this one. Strasburg mayor Tim Taylor, one of French's former players, read a town proclamation honoring the Rams' coach, and plenty of past Strasburg players were on hand.
"It's really great to see those guys," French said. "Most of them are successful in their communities. It certainly wasn't all of them, but it was a lot of them. And I've gotten some emails and some letters from some other people. It was really nice. I really appreciated that."
Strasburg (17-4, 10-4 Bull Run) still had a game to play, and Central (7-13, 4-10 Bull Run) wasn't about to make it easy.
Central's Richard Neff had the hot hand early, pouring in nine first-quarter points to keep the Falcons within one at 12-11 after the first frame.
The Rams looked to create a bit of breathing room in the second quarter, as Arkell Goring -- who went down with an injury and missed a good bit of the first quarter -- came back with a taped-up knee to score eight second-quarter points.
The Falcons stayed close, though, thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from deep by Benjamin Kline that set the halftime score at 28-26 in the Rams' favor.
Strasburg stretched that lead to three by the end of the third, as center Jonathan Kloosterman controlled the inside.
"I think we battled pretty well through most of the game," Central coach Mickey Clinedinst said. "I think what really hurt us the most was second-chance rebounds. Kloosterman was cleaning up in there. And then we just weren't able to stay in front of [Goring]. He just went down in there and we couldn't get anybody over there."
Hayden Bauserman's 3-pointer and a pair of made free throws by Travis Cooper put Central up 43-43 with 6:08 to play, but the Rams answered right back with a 7-0 run. Ryan Smoot had four with a pair of free throws and a layup, sandwiched around Goring's 3-pointer, as Strasburg pushed its lead back to 49-43.
From there, the Rams slowly inched away to lock up the win.
Hott was proud he could help make French a winner once again on Tuesday night.
"It was a big night for him," Hott said. "I'm glad we could do it for them."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>