By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Second place in the Bull Run District was on the line when Strasburg hosted William Monroe in boys basketball action on Thursday night, but unfortunately for Strasburg, the visiting Green Dragons looked like the much, much better team.
The Rams struggled all night offensively, and Strasburg's game-long cold spell hampered its ability to keep up with the sharp-shooting Dragons in a 52-33 loss.
"They're pretty good. When you're playing against a team that's good, and you don't play good, you're going to lose," Rams coach Matt Hiserman said.
"They played well and we didn't, and when that happens you're going to get beaten by 20 points by a good team."
Strasburg, which saw an improved shooting effort in a win against Clarke County two days ago, reverted back to its offensive struggles on Thursday night. The Rams (6-5, 4-3 Bull Run) shot just 26.3 percent (10 for 38) from the field and hit just 9 of 18 free throws.
William Monroe (6-2, 6-1) was able to utilize the size and athleticism of 6-foot-4 junior Jeffrey Early to prevent Strasburg from maintaining any kind of post presence on offense. The Rams' two leading big men, Ryan Smoot and Jonathan Kloosterman, were held to just eight and two points, respectively.
Early spent much of the night guarding Smoot, but Hiserman said Early's length allowed him to maintain considerable help on Kloosterman as well inside the lane. Strasburg was forced to look elsewhere for points, but the shots simply weren't falling for the Rams.
Senior Tyler Doman led the Rams with nine points.
"You've got to attack them on penetration and get them to have to come and help. We didn't do a good job of that on the offensive end," Hiserman said. "Our guards started standing and watching and wanting to shoot it from the perimeter all the time. You've got to attack them."
William Monroe jumped out to an 11-5 lead after the first period, but the Dragons really began heating up from the field in the second quarter. The Dragons used a 9-3 run to extend their lead to 20-8 with 4:10 left in the first half following a 3-pointer by Anthony Terry, and William Monroe took a 24-13 lead into halftime.
Strasburg hit just 4 of 20 shots in the first half and missed several shots in close on drives to the basket.
"We missed a bunch of easy shots early on. We were 4 of 9 from the free-throw line in the first half, and three of those were front ends of a 1-and-1, so I'd say we were 4 of 12," Hiserman said. "You miss things like that and the kids' focus level just kind of goes away ... it just falls apart. And it did."
While Strasburg was struggling to score points, William Monroe couldn't seem to miss. The Dragons finished the night with a 58-percent mark (21 of 36) from the field, but that number was at 65 percent after three quarters before Dragons coach Mike Maynard began using his bench players in the final period.
Early led the way for William Monroe, as the junior finished with 17 points, nearly all of which came in the paint. Keegan Woolford added 12 points for the Dragons.
"We have a couple good shooters. We tried to play inside out. We tried to go inside to our big man first and they were trapping back a lot on him and left a couple of our shooters open," Maynard said. "And a lot of our sets worked. It was one of those nights where we shot well. I think we saw a big basket and it kind of got contagious."
The Dragons destroyed any sliver of hope Strasburg had of a comeback quickly in the third quarter, as William Monroe ballooned the lead to 40-18 with a 16-5 run to open the second half. William Monroe scored on eight of its first nine possessions in the frame, and took a 43-22 lead into the final quarter.
Strasburg will get a break from district play today as the Rams host Moorefield (W.Va.), before playing the Yellow Jackets on the road again early next week.
"We're going to have to be ready to go tomorrow, Moorefield is always going to be tough against you. But it does give a little break from three straight, pretty big rivalry games," Hiserman said. "Hopefully the next three games we can get back on track going into the stretch run."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD