Rams fall to William Monroe in regional playoffs

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^ Posted 23 hours ago

By Brad Fauber

STANARDSVILLE -- The idea that Wednesday's Region B, Division 2 contest against William Monroe could be his final game as head coach of Strasburg's boys basketball program never crossed the mind of Millson French.

After all, French -- Strasburg's head coach for the last 39 years -- did have a basketball game to worry about, and the Rams needed every bit of focus from everyone on their bench if they hoped to upset the top-seeded Green Dragons.

But William Monroe did what it had already done twice during the regular season to the Rams, dumping Strasburg 74-50. This time, the win ended the Rams' season, and French's high school coaching career.

It didn't take long after the fact for the reality to set in for French, who had made it known prior to the 2012-13 campaign of his retirement plans at season's end.

"It's already sunk in," French said. "I'm not really ready for it, but it's got to happen. It's just one of those things -- life goes on. Life goes on."

The Dragons will play No. 4 Stuarts Draft at 7 p.m. on Friday at Madison County High School.

William Monroe (23-3) -- the Bull Run District's regular season and tournament champion -- jumped on Strasburg early, as the Green Dragons scored on seven straight possessions midway through the first period to open up a quick 20-6 lead.

Rams senior Tyler Hott sank a 3-pointer from the left wing to end the first quarter with Strasburg trailing 20-9, and the Rams (18-6) were able to slowly crawl back into the game in the second period.

Strasburg held the Green Dragons scoreless for a three-minute stretch in the second period, and the Rams cut William Monroe's lead to 24-21 when junior Matt Clutter drained a 3-pointer with 3:22 to play in the first half.

But things spiraled downward for the Rams from there.

Dragons sophomore Jeff Early responded to Clutter's trey with a bucket in the paint -- a repeated occurrence for William Monroe on Wednesday -- that started a 10-2 Dragons run to close out the half. Strasburg found itself trailing 34-23 at halftime.

"We did a good job getting ourselves back in the game, but then we had a little lapse there right before the half," French said. "We did not get in front of their post people. They were going into the post and we were just standing behind them and letting them catch the ball."

The 6-foot-3 Early and senior Markel Williams were dominant in the paint all night for the Dragons, as the Rams couldn't seem to find a way to slow the duo down.

Early led all scorers with 21 points, and Williams added 18 points for William Monroe.

"They did try to play a triangle-and-2 early in the game on my two best offensive players, Gary Morris and Markel," Dragons coach Mike Maynard said. "I thought Jeff Early did a good job cutting to the basket, setting screens and rolling, and we got them out of that triangle-and-2."

William Monroe blew the game open in the third period, as Morris and Williams combined for 17 of the Dragons' 21 points in the period, and Strasburg trailed 55-36 heading into the final period.

William Monroe led by as much as 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Strasburg never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.

Juniors Jonathan Kloosterman and Arkell Goring led the Rams with 12 points apiece. Kloosterman also tallied seven rebounds, and Goring had six rebounds and three assists.

Strasburg began the 2012-13 season strong, but the Rams fizzled out down the stretch, losing four of their final six games.

"We got off to a great start, then we lost a player and that took away our depth, took a scorer away from us," French said. "It took a little of the comfort level away from us on offense. I don't think we ever really recovered from that."

Kloosterman said that the possibility of Wednesday's contest being French's last game wasn't a topic of pre-game conversation for the Rams' players, but that everyone on the team wanted to put in their best effort for the long-time coach.

"We didn't really talk about it, but I think everybody wanted to come out here and play lights out for him," Kloosterman said. "He's a good coach, and it just didn't end up how we wanted it."

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

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