Rams hang on for win over Stonewall Jackson

By Brad Fauber

QUICKSBURG — Strasburg’s girls basketball team hasn’t been in too many situations so far this season where the Rams were tasked with holding a late lead. That might explain the struggle the Rams had with putting away county rival Stonewall Jackson on Monday night.

Strasburg found itself holding an 8-point lead late in the game, but ill-advised shots, turnovers and missed free throws threatened to derail the Rams’ hopes of beating the Generals for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Luckily for the Rams, Stonewall Jackson suffered all game long from a poor shooting night from the field, and the Generals couldn’t hit the shots they needed to down the stretch as Strasburg held on for the 37-31 victory.

“I think that’s a little bit of a team — we’ve just not been in that position enough lately,” Rams coach Joel Morgan said. “We’ll grow from it. We’ll start what we did in the last minute a little earlier in the game and understanding that we don’t need to take 18-footers when we’ve got a six-point lead with two minutes left. We need to be working the ball, looking for an uncontested lay-up or something like that.

“But we’ll take the win. We’ll certainly enjoy the win and get back to work tomorrow to see if we can beat Manassas Park on Wednesday.”

The Rams (3-3) led 26-20 going into the final quarter of play in a game where points were sparse for long periods of time. Strasburg managed to maintain its cushion throughout the fourth period, eventually taking a 34-26 lead on a deep jumper by sophomore Carey Scott with 3:15 to play.

But Strasburg struggled mightily with the late-game situation, as the Rams turned the ball over on five straight possessions in a two-minute span and rushed a few shots instead of trying to drain the clock. Stonewall Jackson (0-4) took advantage by pulling within three points following free throws by Cheyenne Crigger and Emily Jordan, and a fast-break basket by Makaela Turner.

“I don’t think we understood that we just had to run the clock down,” Rams sophomore point guard Kelsey Jenkins said. “We were just throwing up shots just to try to score. Then we settled down and got things under control.

“[Morgan] was just telling us that we needed to be smart about what we were doing, not turn it over and not foul. We’re not very good at the end of games when they’re close, and we’ve been working on that. He just told us to relax.”

Stonewall began fouling with less than a minute to play, and the Rams came up empty on two 1-and-1 attempts from the free-throw line late in the game. It wasn’t until Scott (8 points) hit the front end of a 1-and-1 attempt with 29 seconds left that Strasburg was able to take a two-possession lead. Rams senior Kenzy McKelvey hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

“End-of-game situations, if you’re going to milk the clock, they’re going to foul you. You’ve got to be able to go to the line and make free throws,” Morgan said. “And that’s all part of handling the pressure. The more times they get put into it, the better off we’ll be at it.”

Points were hard to come by for each team throughout most of the game, and Strasburg held just a 6-4 lead after one period.

Both teams saw more success in the second period, and Stonewall gained its first and only lead of the game when junior Kayla Miller nailed a jumper to give the Generals a 10-9 lead with 5:35 left in the quarter.

Stonewall extended its lead to 14-11 on a putback by junior Jayme Kokkonen (game-high 10 points), but Strasburg ended the half on an 8-2 run to take a 19-16 lead into halftime.

The Generals shot just 14 for 57 (24.6 percent) from the field in the game, compared to a 35-percent (14 for 40) mark for Strasburg. Both teams had 20 turnovers.

“I didn’t think we shot the ball well, and then that sometimes leads to you’re not always going to be able to do the things you want. But we’ve got to get mentally tougher, get focused on what we’re doing, being intense,” Generals coach Jeff Burner said. “Plus we’ve got this thing going on where we’ll get two or three, have a good night, and we’ll have two or three, not have a good night. We don’t have that room for error. We need to have everybody going out there playing hard and being on the same page.”

Strasburg maintained its slim lead throughout the third period, as Jenkins — who also scored the final bucket of the first half — scored all seven of the Rams’ points in the frame. Jenkins finished with a team-high nine points to go along with five rebounds.

Senior Mikala Alsberry added six points and eight rebounds for Strasburg, while senior Marissa Doman added five points for the Rams.

Jordan had nine points for Stonewall, and Miller added six points for the Generals.

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