By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson struggled early against Wilson Memorial's 2-3 zone, and it proved costly.
The Generals rallied in the second half, but in the end fell 50-48 in Shenandoah District boys basketball action.
"It's amazing what we can do when we actually play the game," Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said. "We were timid in that first half. I think we were a little bit in shock. We didn't necessarily know how to attack and penetrate that zone. It wasn't something that could deter us, but we allowed it to by the way we played."
The Green Hornets had a lot of size inside with 7-foot-2 Dean Shaner and 6-foot-5 Christian Case, which made life difficult for the Generals.
Wilson Memorial was able to build a 20-7 lead late in the first half, with nine points coming from Case.
A 3-pointer by Colton Harlow cut the lead to 20-10 at the half, and the Generals came out strong in the third period.
Harlow hit three 3-pointers, and two 3-pointers by Ryan Smith helped the Generals pull within a point, 25-24, with 4:41 left in the third period.
Smoot said he talked to the team at halftime and they came out strong in the second half.
"We hit a couple shots early, we worked the ball and attacked that zone," Smoot said. "We got them moving. We kicked it out and our defense feeds off our offense. If we can score, we get pumped and we do things a little bit faster. When we didn't score we get a little bit frustrated, and it slows us down. That was the main difference for us."
Another 3-pointer by Smith gave the Generals their first lead of the game, 27-25, with 4:12 left in the third period. The two teams went back and forth until the Green Hornets used an 8-0 run to take a 36-29 edge with 31 seconds left in the third period.
The Green Hornets (2-5, 2-0 Shenandoah) switched out of the zone and into a man-to-man defense and did just enough to hold off the Generals.
The Generals (3-2, 0-1 Shenandoah) were able to cut the lead to 44-43 with 1:29 left on two free throws by Ian Pugh, andCase also fouled out on the play.
Two free throws and a layup by Dan Poole stretched the lead to 48-43 with one minute left in the game.
Harlow got a steal and a layup to cut it to three, but two free throws by John Leavell stretched the lead back to five.
Smith then hit a 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left to cut the lead to 50-48. After Leavell missed two free throws, Harlow was able to get off a desperation 3-pointer but it fell short at the buzzer.
"I'm happy as can be with playing one half of basketball," Smoot said. "Unfortunately, the game is 32 minutes and not 16. All we did is we played a 16-minute game tonight and it showed. And the end result is what happens."
Case led the Green Hornets with 15 points, and Leavell had 11 points.
Wilson Memorial coach Rodney Cullen said he lost 80 percent of his scoring from last year's team and the Green Hornets are still trying to find their way offensively.
"A lot of guys played last year, but they were role players," Cullen said. "We've got a lot of guys that can score, but they're not confident in doing that yet. We're a work in progress. We just got to keep getting better and better."
Harlow led the Generals with 25 points and Smith had 14.
Smoot said the Generals have struggled in the first half all season, and they have to figure out a way to come out strong from the start.
"We have to become more aggressive from the opening tip to the closing buzzer," Smoot said. "If you look at the film and you watch, we dive on a lot more loose balls in the second half than the first. And normally it's because we're ticked off and we go after it. We have to figure out a way to get ticked off when that tip goes down. Unfortunately, I haven't found the key to that yet and the team hasn't either, and we need to work on that to make sure we get it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd