Defense key for Strasburg

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

ELKTON — Strasburg couldn’t have picked a more fitting way to end the game against East Rockingham on Tuesday night.

As the final seconds were ticking, junior Ryan Smoot got a key steal, and would eventually make the game winning free throw in Strasburg’s 36-35 win over the Eagles. It’s been defense hat has carried the Rams all season.

“It was a defensive game,” Smoot said. “You just try to make a play because you know you’ve got a foul to give, so you can be a little physical, and that’s what happened. I just poked the ball away.”

The game had been tied at 35 since the 1:52 mark, and it was several defensive plays that helped keep it tied.

Senior Matt Clutter took a charge with 1:29 left. The play was set up with the help of Smoot.

“Ryan [Smoot] was able to turn him and get him right, and throughout the year I’ve been able to get most of the charges for our team,” Clutter said. “So when I saw him come right at me, he lowered his head and he wasn’t looking. So I slid right over and I just let him hit me.”

Strasburg’s Tyler Doman, who had a steal and a layup to tie the game earlier in the fourth period, came up with a block in the final minute.

Whatever it takes, the Rams are willing to do it on the defensive end.

It’s one of the biggest reasons the team has won 18 games, even when the offense has struggled.

Doman said he thinks the Rams’ man-to-man defense surprises their opponents.

“I think they don’t expect us to play that good of defense and aggressive defense — shoot gaps and steal balls,” Doman said. “I think we kind of surprise some people.”

The Rams have held teams to under 50 points in 16 of their last 19 games.

Strasburg has struggled lately on the offensive end, and Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said it’s a credit to the players that they continue to play hard on defense.

“They’ve went through so many offensive struggles here in the last five, six games, that they have stayed at it, stayed at it, stayed at it. And they’ve learned to kind of battle through those type of situations,” Hiserman said. “We can tell them all we want that, ‘You gotta stay with it, you gotta stay with it’, but their mental attitude on the floor has been great.”

The Rams had 13 steals against the Eagles. Smoot said the success on defense starts with the play of the guards.

“It starts with our guards,” Smoot said. “I think tonight Noah [St. Clair] especially gave us a boost, offensively and defensively. He’s always there defensively, a real lockdown guy.”

Smoot said the Rams get energized by their defense.

“When you see guys getting on the floor, making plays, blocking shots, it gives everybody a boost, whether your on the floor or on the bench,” Smoot said. “Some teams they don’t want to play it — 3-pointers and dunks are what excites them, but I guess we’re a little different. You get a jump ball, get a guy on the floor, get a steal that’s what excites us. That’s how we win games.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com