By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- Mikala Alsberry provided plenty for Strasburg High School's girls basketball team last week. In two games, one loss and one win, Alsberry posted back-to-back double-doubles for the Rams.
Strasburg coach Joel Morgan appreciates those contributions, to be sure. He just wants more of it the rest of the season.
"She's played well for us this year and made a big difference," Morgan said. "We're 6-6 and coming off a year where being 4-19, her play has really helped us play a lot better right now. We're fortunate to have her playing the way she is. We're still trying to get more out of her."
Alsberry, The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for Jan. 5-Jan. Jan. 11, already ranks among the area's top scorers and rates as the top rebounder, as well. Plus, she's the best free-throw shooter around at right about 75 percent for the season.
Morgan wants more? Is it greed, or something else? Untapped potential, maybe?
"She's a good athlete," Morgan said. "If we can kind of continue to push her a little bit ... I mean, sometimes I don't know if we've even really seen how athletic she can be. I think as we go along, it keeps getting a little bit better. She's always been a little bit timid, a little bit shy, and as each practice goes along we keep finding out a little bit more about what she can do. I know we're kind of running out of time being a senior, but we're going to try and get as much out of her as we can over the last few weeks of the season."
Last week was an excellent example of what Alsberry can do for the Rams.
In a 53-44 loss to Bull Run District rival Clarke County on Wednesday, the senior center/forward tallied 15 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and an assist.
Two days later on the road at William Monroe, Alsberry delivered again with 10 points, 12 rebounds and another assist to help Strasburg earn a 42-27 victory and return to .500 at 6-6 this season.
"I think I played pretty well," Alsberry said. "I tried to get up and down the court because when you get up and down the court, you get a lot of points by running ahead of the rest of the team. And then rebounds, just getting up there and trying to get as many as I can."
At 5 feet, 11 inches, Alsberry doesn't have imposing height in her favor when patrolling the paint. She's always been quick, though, and this year she's able to stay on the floor for extended stretches.
"I feel like I'm in better physical shape this year as opposed to last year," Alsberry said. "I can go longer."
Morgan has noticed Alsberry has been able to maintain her energy level better this year, and that's led to increased production. This season, Alsberry leads the Rams in both scoring (11.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.8 rebounds per game).
"I think just this past week, she's really starting to play even more physical, stronger for us -- sustaining it for a longer period of time," Morgan said. "That moving forward is going to help us be a better team."
"She's been able to play sustained minutes for us. She's been going out there playing 23, 25 minutes for us. Last year we couldn't have gotten that out of her. So from a stamina standpoint and being able to maintain and play at the same level for that many minutes, that's a real bonus for us."
Alsberry, playing her third and final season of varsity basketball at Strasburg, is optimistic that more good things are ahead for the Rams. Strasburg has a chance to build some more momentum this week with road games against Moorefield (W.Va.) and Rappahannock County, two teams the Rams have already beaten this season, before wrapping up the five-game road trip with a rematch against Madison County on Jan. 21. Strasburg dropped a two-point decision to the Mountaineers last month. After that game, Strasburg will close out the year with five of its final seven games at home.
"We know going on the road is going to be tough," Morgan said. "Moorefield played us a pretty good game here, and it's going to be tough going over there and beating them. We would like to try to string a few wins together here before we finish up with those last four or five games down the stretch."
Alsberry is ready to do her part for the Rams.
"I think we get better every day," Alsberry said. "As long as we keep up the pace that we're going at, I think we can have a pretty good [season]."