By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Strasburg got off to a quick start in Wednesday's Bull Run District boys basketball game with rival Central -- and then cooled off considerably over the final three periods.
But as it turned out, the Rams' early 12-point lead after the first eight minutes of action was plenty for Strasburg to secure the regular-season sweep of the Falcons. Strasburg withstood several rallies by Central before eventually holding on for a 61-51 win.
The Rams hit more than 60 percent of their shots in the first period en route to a 20-8 lead after the first period, but then appeared to lose its shooting touch in the second quarter.
"We got the lead out there in the first half and I thought we had a chance to extend it more than 14 or so," Rams coach Matt Hiserman said. "Guys didn't finish around the bucket ... and I thought we got complacent and settled on the offensive end."
Strasburg was hot from the field early, as the Rams made six of their first nine shots -- including 3-pointers by seniors Matt Clutter and Tyler Doman -- to take a 14-4 lead with 2:30 left to play in the first period.
Central cut the lead to six points following a stickback by senior Zach Herbaugh, but the Rams closed the period on a 6-0 run, including a 3-pointer by sophomore Trevin Howard at the buzzer.
"It was an uphill battle the entire way," Falcons coach Brandon Shields said. "When you give yourself a hole like that you've got to use a lot more energy than you want to trying to fight back. We just didn't have enough in the tank to get over the hump there."
Things changed quickly in the second period for both teams, as Central (8-12, 5-9 Bull Run) began the frame on a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer by senior Ricky Neff and a pull-up jumper by Herbaugh to pull within 20-15.
But Strasburg (14-7, 10-5) responded with a 9-0 run of its own, as Doman tallied four points and senior Jonathan Kloosterman had three during the spurt. The Rams held a 31-21 lead at halftime.
Doman led the Rams with 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and five steals, while Kloosterman had a monster game, finishing with 18 points and 21 rebounds.
Strasburg shot 45.8 percent (22 for 48) from the floor in the victory and held the Falcons to a 32.7-percent mark (16 for 49) from the field.
"I thought we played pretty well defensively. Offensively we kind of rushed some stuff and didn't really take the shots that we needed to take," Doman said.
"I'm not really sure what happened. The first quarter we were really hot, but I'm not really sure what happened after that."
Strasburg extended its lead to 37-23 midway through the third period on a baseline layup by Doman, but Doman, Kloosterman and Ryan Smoot each tallied their third foul during the period and missed much of the frame. The Falcons ended the third quarter on an 11-4 run to cut the Rams' lead to 41-34 heading into the fourth period, but Shields said he felt like they missed some opportunities to trim the deficit even more.
"We thought we could get some stuff going to the basket a little bit, that's why we tried to dribble drive it a little more in the second half," Shields said. "It got us in the bonus pretty early and kept us alive there. [The Rams] do a good job of pressuring the ball and we tried to make them pay for it."
The Rams pushed their lead back to 13 points early in the fourth following a layup by Doman and made free throw by Kloosterman, and Strasburg did enough down the stretch to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the fourth period despite 11 points in the frame by Central senior Travis Cooper.
"In the fourth we came out and kind of pushed it back ahead and just kind of held on right there," Hiserman said. "I think they just kind of felt like they were in control all night, but when it's 10 or 12 points, they've got guys like [Cooper and Neff] who can really shoot it. It can change real, real fast. It was just one of those where we just kind of got up and got relaxed a little bit and just didn't hold our focus all the way through."
Neff, who injured his right shoulder while defending a layup with six seconds remaining in the game, led the Falcons with 21 points. Cooper finished with 16 points for Central.
Ryan Smoot had 10 points and four assists for Strasburg.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org