By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's boys basketball program took some big strides forward last season. On Wednesday night, the Generals took another step forward as they knocked off Shenandoah County rival Strasburg, 53-47.
It was Stonewall Jackson's first win over Strasburg in at least 10 years. Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said he believed that the last time the Generals beat the Rams was the 2003-2004 season.
"It's an amazing feeling," Stonewall Jackson senior Colton Harlow said. "Knowing that we did do that, I think is a huge confidence booster. And showed us how good of a basketball team we really are when we play together and work hard.
"Knowing that there were teams that couldn't do it, and then we come in and do it this year. I knew we could do it, but it's an honor. It really is. Having the team we have to play with and the coaching staff we have -- it's a family."
The second period was key for the Generals. With the scored tied at 14, Stonewall Jackson out-scored Strasburg 20-10 in the period.
Harlow, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit two 3-pointers, and Ryan Smith also had six points in the period for the Generals.
"It was really big," Harlow said of the second period. "Just knowing that we went from being this selfish non-defensive team to holding a team to 10 points, and knowing that we had the lead behind our backs was a great feeling."
Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said the Rams didn't play the way they were capable on defense in the first half.
"We didn't play very good defense in the first half," Hiserman said. "We shouldn't give up 34 points in a half. I told them at halftime, if we're going to get back in it we've got to do it with defense."
The Rams (1-1) did just that. They held the Generals to just 19 points in the second half, but overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit was too much for the Rams.
Strasburg came out strong in the third quarter, and used a 9-4 spurt to cut the lead to 38-33 with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
The Generals (1-0) responded, aided by a couple baskets by Corey Polk and a 3-pointer by Harlow. The Generals held a 44-35 lead entering the final eight minutes.
Things got even tougher for the Generals to start the fourth period, as they failed to score in the first 4:40 of the period.
"It started getting a little hairy," Smoot said. "We started panicking. We started settling for some outside jumpers, when we should have went inside."
Smoot said some of the Generals' problems were simply knowing how to finish off a game.
The Rams were able to cut the lead to as little as four points on three different occasions. A basket by Strasburg's Ryan Smoot cut the lead to 51-47 with 47 seconds left. The two teams exchanged missed three throws before Harlow came up with a steal with 18 seconds left and was intentionally fouled.
Harlow calmly sank both free throws to put the game out of reach and give the Generals a big season-opening victory.
The Rams were led by 20 points from Ryan Smoot and 10 by Tyler Doman.
Hiserman said the team needs to improve on offense.
"We're trying to find our offensive leader," Hiserman said. "We've got to find the guys ready offensively to step up and knock down the shot. It's early in the year, and we just got to get better at what we're doing. Obviously, they're used to having Jonathan [Kloosterman, who is out due to injury] in there and they're still trying to find their way without him."
Smith had 11 points, and Polk had 10 for the Generals. Patrick Smoot said he was really happy with everybody's play on Wednesday night.
"They all did something at one end or the other that helped us win that game," Patrick Smoot said. "It was a whole team effort."
The Generals will have a chance to knock off another county rival on Friday night when they host Central. It's been even longer since the Generals have defeated the Falcons.
"If we beat Central it's going to be crazy, because that's probably even a bigger rival," Harlow said. "Knowing that we came out here and won today, we're going to have a big confidence boost, and we know that if we beat Central it's going to be even bigger.
"I have faith in the team that we can do it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org