By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- After a tough loss last weekend, Warren County's Blake Steele took some to regroup. The senior center felt he could have played better and wanted to make sure that he took advantage of the great season the Wildcats are having.
Steele was at the top of his game on Friday night as he helped lead Warren County to a 46-32 Bull Run District boys basketball victory over Strasburg.
"After last week I started to think to myself -- and I was slacking. I was slacking," Steele said. "We have the opportunity this year to do something that a Warren County basketball team hasn't done since I can't remember. This is my senior year. This is my last opportunity to be able to go out and play for the Warren County Wildcats and I'm trying to make the most of it.
"I came out here and decided just to play my game, and not worry about what they were doing, but play the game I know how and it worked for me."
Steele, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, dominated from the start with seven points and five rebounds in the first period, to help the Wildcats build a 15-6 lead after the first period.
He was matched up against Strasburg center Jonathan Kloosterman for much of the game, and Steele said the two play together on an Amatuer Athletic Union team and are friends.
"The whole game it's jokes, but it's being serious about it," Steele said. "So that's always fun. If you score on him, you talk to him, give him some stuff. Then if he scores on you, you know it's coming right back at you. It's fun. I love being able to play the game I love and have fun while I'm doing it."
Steele picked up his third foul with 3:53 left in the first half and the Wildcats leading by 17, and the Rams began to climb back in the game.
A 3-pointer, a driving layup and a buzzer beater by Tyler Doman helped cut the lead to 23-13. Doman had 11 of Strasburg's 13 first-half points.
The Rams hit only one field goal in the first period, and coach Matt Hiserman said his team wasn't ready for the game.
"We knew it when we in the locker room before the game they weren't ready to play," Hiserman said. "You do that against somebody as good as Warren County and you're not going to be in the game. We were just lucky they missed some shots in the first half that kept us around. Because we weren't ready to play."
A basket by Kloosterman to start the third period cut the lead to 23-15, but Casey Stewart had six points in an 8-0 run to help put the game away.
The Rams trailed by at least nine points the rest of the game. Whenever it appeared the Rams might climb back into the game, Steele had an answer for the Wildcats.
"Tonight I was feeling it, I guess you could say," Steele said. "I knew that if I got the ball in the post I could sort of handle my own. I feel like against anyone I can, as long as I put my mind to it and play the game the way I know how."
Doman finished with 13 points, while Kloosterman had seven. Strasburg hosts Madison County today at 4 p.m.
"If were not focused tomorrow well get beat again," Hiserman said. "Then we go to [William] Monroe on Monday -- it doesn't get easier. We've got to find some guys that will step up. We've been having some good play off our bench, and I didn't feel like we got that tonight. I don't know what the reasoning was but we weren't there."
Stewart added 12 points for the Wildcats, who were coming off two losses in a row. Warren County coach Vernon Mathews said it was big to get back on the winning track.
"We needed a 'W' to get back on track and just to get our confidence up," Mathews said. "I thought for the most part we defended pretty well. Offensively, we've got a long ways to go, but it was better than the last couple games."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd