By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- No one would mistake Strasburg High School senior Mikala Alsberry for a towering post player, even though she played like one when it mattered most for the Rams on Monday night.
Few might consider Rams sophomore guard Carey Scott a dominating scorer, but she was against Moorefield (W.Va.) on that same night.
Between the two of them Alsberry and Scott -- the Rams got a 19-point fourth quarter burst to pull away for a hard-fought 56-47 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
Alsberry, just 5 feet, 11 inches, was still taller than any player Moorefield (3-6) had on the floor and she used it to her advantage. Held to just two points through the first three quarters, Alsberry attacked the paint with a vengeance over the final eight minutes to tally eight more points to finish in double digits with 10.
"You just have to stay strong in the post," Alsberry said. "I tried to make plays."
Scott did even more damage, scoring 11 of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter as a deadly finisher on fast-break opportunities. Eight of her points came on layups, with the other three coming via the free-throw line.
"I really couldn't do it without my team playing good defense, just anticipating the ball," Scott said. "Everybody just put in a good effort."
Strasburg (5-4) needed that boost to counter an outstanding night by Moorefield's Beth Cook, who finished with a season-high 27 points. Cook even pulled off an extremely rare feat in the fourth quarter, converting a bizarre five-point play.
Here's how it appeared to happen -- as Cook landed from releasing a 3-point attempt, she drew a foul from Strasburg's Rachel Harriman. Cook's trey was good, and the game official ruled she had earned a one-and-a-bonus free-throw opportunity on the foul. Cook sank both, turning a two-point deficit into a 42-39 lead with 6:02 to play.
"They got themselves right back into it, took a three-point lead," Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. "I was scrambling down there to see if we could find some way to take some momentum back, and the kids were able to do that. I thought we got ourselves right."
Thanks to Scott and Alsberry, Strasburg did indeed get right. The two combined for a 10-0 run over the next two minutes to boost the Rams back to a comfortable 49-42 lead.
Comfortable, that is, until Strasburg stopped boxing out when the Yellow Jackets' Kellie Bedell was shooting free throws. Two times in a row, Bedell grabbed her own rebound on a miss and drew fouls, earning six free throws in all and making four to cut Strasburg's lead to 49-46 with 3:38 to play.
"When we were doing things the right way, they were having to take tough shots and we were in position for rebounds," Morgan said. "When you're not playing the right way and you're doing things that you're not taught to do, that's where we were getting ourselves in big-time trouble right there."
Scott answered with another layup, and after the Yellow Jackets failed to convert Alsberry got another basket on an offensive putback to stretch the lead out one last time.
Moorefield couldn't muster much offense after Cook's five-point play, hitting just 1 of 16 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't get very good looks," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Keplinger said. "I know we took the ball to the hole some. We got a few foul shots that kept us around, but we just didn't look to shoot the basketball especially with our scorers."
Strasburg held Moorefield's other top scorer, Tara George, to just two points.
"We did a really nice job on (George) -- I don't think she hardly got a shot off," Morgan said. "But I knew coming in that those two girls could really shoot the ball."
The Rams opened up a 26-18 halftime lead with a balanced offensive attack and by forcing Moorefield into 16 turnovers in the first two quarters.
"We were really sloppy in the first quarter," Morgan said. "I thought defensively in the first half we really played well and thought that if we hadn't been so sloppy, I felt like we could've had a better lead and a little more cushion right there."
Cook got her team right back in it in the third quarter, as her third 3-pointer of the frame gave Moorefield a 33-31 lead before the Rams regrouped to forge a two-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Bedell finished with seven points and 12 rebounds for Moorefield.
Kelsey Jenkins had nine points, and Rachel Funkhouser chipped in a team-best 10 rebounds for the Rams.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>