By Tommy Keeler Jr.
SHENANDOAH -- Strasburg battled back after early foul trouble and a slow start put the Rams in a hole. The Rams had their chances in the final period, but came up short in a 57-46 loss in the Conference 35 girls basketball tournament quarterfinals.
"I was proud of the way the kids came out in the second half and battled," Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said.
Page County used a 9-2 run to build an early 11-4 edge in the first period. Strasburg post players Mikala Alsberry and Katie Dofermire each picked up two quick fouls, which made life more difficult for the Rams.
"Obviously, foul trouble hurt us in the first half," Morgan said. "I thought defensively we played poorly at times in the first half. We were fouling, and that was because we were out of position."
Back-to-back baskets by Kenzy McKelvey and Kelsey Jenkins cut the lead to 17-10 with 5:50 left in the first half.
The Panthers responded with an 8-3 run, with four different players scoring, to take a 25-13 lead with 3:59 left in the first half.
Page County extended the lead to 28-15 on a basket by Laney Corbin with five seconds left in the half, but Jenkins drained a 3-pointer from just inside half court at the buzzer to cut the lead to 10 at the half.
"I felt like at halftime we were fortunate to only be down by 10," Morgan said.
The two teams went back and forth in the third period. Strasburg made a big push in the final period.
A 7-3 run by Strasburg cut the lead to 48-42 with 3:48 left in the game. Jenkins had five points during the spurt.
A free throw by Page County's Morgan Andrews and a basket by Dofermire cut the lead to 49-44 with 3:01 left.
Strasburg had a chance to cut the lead down even further, but a turnover gave the ball back to the Panthers, and they led by at least six the rest of the way.
"At 49-44, Emily Melnikoff drove down and had the ball just slip out of her hands," Morgan said. "I thought maybe if we could have cut it to three there, maybe it puts more pressure on them. Maybe they miss some free throws. But that's the way it goes."
Corbin led the Panthers with 30 points.
Jenkins and Melnikoff each had 10 points to lead the Rams.
Strasburg's season comes to an end, but Morgan said he was very proud of how the team fared this year.
"In all my years coaching, I think this is one of the better seasons we've had," Morgan said. "Coming off three straight losings seasons, and going 4-19 last year. We had basically the same kids, and went [13-12]. We accomplished a lot of the goals we set at the beginning of the season."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org