By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG --Strasburg's offense was nowhere to be found at times throughout its boys basketball contest with Madison County on Saturday. Luckily for the Rams, their defense made up for it.
Strasburg used a strong defensive effort to pull out a 42-34 Bull Run District win over the Mountaineers.
"We had intensity tonight and had more legs to us [than in a loss to Warren County on Friday]," Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said. "Just from being off, the offensive flow, it's going to take a while to get back into rhythm.
"I thought tonight we kept our defensive energy level up when we weren't scoring compared to [Friday] night."
The Rams started off strong as they took a 15-9 first-quarter lead. Senior Matt Clutter hit two 3-pointers, and Tyler Doman had one trey in the first period.
"Early on we were able to get a bunch of kick out, which helps our offense a lot," Clutter said. "I was just able to step up and knock down some shots early."
Madison County 6-foot-6 center Matt Temple presented a tough match-up all game long, along with 6-foot-4 Dylan Breeden. The Rams were able to keep the pair from scoring many points inside the paint, led by the defensive effort of Strasburg 6-foot-3 center Jonahan Kloosterman.
"He's 6-6, he's got that long reach. So I knew that I was going to have to keep him off the block a lot more than most people, because he can just lay it up under me," Kloosterman said. "So, I really focused on pushing him off the block, and just any time he got he ball I would put my body against him so he couldn't get any post moves down and wouldn't put his shoulder down. It kept him away, and I think that really helped out our defensive scheme."
The Rams (11-6, 7-4 Bull Run) held Temple to just 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Mountaineers also struggled to hit shots from the outside, but the Rams had problems of their own on the offensive end.
Strasburg made only field goal in the second period, and a 10-0 run helped Madison County take a 21-20 lead at the half.
The Rams took the lead early in the third period on a steal and layup by Noah St. Clair, and Kloosterman added a basket with 3:23 left in the quarter for a 24-21 lead.
Madison County (8-9, 5-6 Bull Run) finally scored with 1:36 left in the third period on a basket by Temple to cut the lead to 24-23.
The Rams were 0-for-8 in the third period from 3-point range, until Clutter drained a trey with two seconds left in the period.
"We just couldn't get any shots to fall from the perimeter [in the third period]," Clutter said. "Finally at the end, I had an open look as one of my teammates drove and kicked it back out to me. It put us up and then we had confidence [going into the fourth]."
Kloosterman picked up his fourth foul with 7:31 left in the game, and the Mountaineers went inside to Temple to help retake the lead.
Temple scored six points during a 10-6 run as the Mountaineers took a 33-31 lead with 3:47 left.
Clutter tied the game on a driving layup, but the Mountaineers retook the lead on a free throw by Isiah Smith with 3:28 left.
Strasburg sophomore Trevin Howard converted a conventional three-point play on a driving layup to give the Rams the lead for good.
"As a sophomore coming off the bench, he's finally getting the confidence level where we thought he could help us all year long," Hiserman said of Howard. "He's got a little bit of that attitude in him of i'll get bumped, but I can still take it to the hoop -- which is a good thing.
"We've gotten tremendous things out of Trevin the last four or five games."
Clutter hit two free throws to extend the lead to four, and Doman hit two more with 1:08 left for a 40-34 lead. The Mountaineers didn't make a basket in the last 3:47, and were 4-for-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth period.
"In the fourth quarter, I thought it came down to free throws, and we missed ours," Madison County coach Ben Breeden said. "And they made enough plays and free throws to seal the game."
Clutter led the Rams with 13 points, while Kloosterman had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Doman added 10 points for the Rams.
Both teams are in Conference 35, and the win gives the Rams a little bit of a cushion on the Mountaineers in the district and conference race.
Kloosterman said playing so well on defense gives the Rams some added confidence.
"Any time we hold the other team to under 40 points, and were struggling on offense that really helps out," Kloosterman said. "It lets us know that any time we're struggling on offense, that we can still win games, which is really a confidence builder."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd