Rams’ defense is key in win

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — Clarke County’s boys basketball program has long been known for its stingy defense, but Strasburg returned the favor on Tuesday night.

The Rams didn’t do anything flashy, but their tight half-court man-to-man defense put enough pressure on the Eagles to boost Strasburg to a 50-41 win over its longtime Bull Run District rival.

Clarke County hit just 14 of 40 shots (35 percent) from the field in the loss, including just a 2-for-13 mark from beyond the 3-point arc. Strasburg also forced the Eagles into 24 turnovers.

“I thought we played extremely well defensively,” Rams coach Matt Hiserman said. “I thought we did a good job on their guys on the perimeter, on [Sean] McDonald and [Morgan] Warfield. Those were two guys we were trying to take away from them.

“We played the normal half-court man-to-man, and I thought we did a good job on their ball screens, that corner ball screen they run. We were stepping out and getting guys staying on the line on the backside. The very first time they ran it we gave up a foul on the backside, and I thought after that we did a good job on all their ball screens.”

Clarke County (3-4, 2-4 Bull Run), which has struggled to put together a complete effort so far this season, briefly held a 3-0 lead to start the game following a free throw by Colton Chrane and a bucket in the paint by Josh Dulaney. But Strasburg (6-4, 4-2) tied the game on a 3-pointer by senior Tyler Doman, and a trey by senior Matt Clutter from the wing with 5:15 left in the first period gave the Rams a 6-3 lead.

The Eagles managed to tie the game twice over the next three minutes, but Doman hit a driving layup with 1:40 left in the frame, and Strasburg wouldn’t trail the rest of the game.

“Right now we’re all frustrated with the way we’re playing,” Eagles coach Brent Emmart said. “We’re struggling to score, and we’re getting broken down defensively, giving up middle penetration.”

An 11-0 Rams run that stretched into the midway point of the second period gave Strasburg a 19-8 lead, and a pair of buckets in the paint by senior Jonathan Kloosterman helped the Rams maintain a 12-point lead with 3:26 to play in the first half. Clarke County rallied to cut the Rams’ lead to 23-19 on a Vince Zduoba basket in the paint with 10 seconds remaining, but Clutter sank a putback at the buzzer to send Strasburg into halftime with a 25-19 lead.

The Rams held Clarke County to just 16 shot attempts in the first half and forced 12 turnovers in the first two periods.

“We broke the press pretty well, but most of all our defense was pretty good. Holding them to 41 points, that’s pretty good,” said Doman, who finished with a game-high 16 points and four steals.

“We were just more aggressive, maybe because it was Clarke County. I don’t know. We were just more aggressive. Everything clicked.”

Clarke County kept things tight for most of the third period, but Strasburg got a huge boost from guard Ian Butler late in the quarter, as the senior connected on a pair of buckets in the paint to give the Rams a 38-27 lead with 45 seconds left in the third.

Butler, who came off the bench early on Tuesday due to several Rams getting into quick foul trouble, finished with seven points and three assists.

“He gave us a boost on both sides of the ball,” Hiserman said of Butler. “He can defend you. Ian can score some, but he’s got to have confidence in himself. When Ian focuses, he can help us a lot. He’s the kid that we need coming off the bench in the guard spot.”

Strasburg opened the fourth period with a 6-0 run to stretch its lead to 14 points with just over six minutes left to play, and the Rams were able to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the quarter.

The Rams hit 19 of 44 shots (43.2 percent) in the win, including a 5-for-16 mark from the 3-point arc.

Kloosterman finished with 11 points, six rebounds and four steals for Strasburg, while Clutter and Ryan Smoot each finished with eight points apiece. Smoot also had nine rebounds to lead the Rams.

Dulaney led Clarke County with 14 points, while McDonald finished with nine for the Eagles.

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