Rams top Generals with ‘D’
QUICKSBURG — On a night when the shots simply weren’t falling, Strasburg’s boys basketball team turned to its defense against county rival Stonewall Jackson.
The Rams utilized a full-court man-to-man press from start to finish in Friday’s road game and did enough to keep the Generals playing from behind for most of the contest in Strasburg’s 50-40 win.
Strasburg forced the Generals into 29 turnovers in the win.
“I thought, defensively, our pressure caused some turnovers early on, got us up five or seven points, and I thought we probably could’ve been up more, we just didn’t convert,” Rams coach Matt Hiserman said. “That’s going to happen a lot to us early on, young kids in these early games. But I thought we stayed with it defensively. A lot of times when you’re not scoring you can get teams that just quit playing defense because you lose your focus, you get all beat up because they’re not going in.
“I thought we kept our composure defensively.”
Despite the turnovers, Stonewall Jackson (0-1) was able to hang around throughout the game and trailed by only four points entering the final minute of the fourth quarter. The Rams struggled for most of the night at the free throw line — Strasburg made 12 of 26 free throws in the game — but hit six of their final eight attempts at the line to put the game away.
Though the Generals appeared to grab some momentum when sophomore Ryan Summers drove into the paint, hit a layup while drawing a foul and converted the ensuing free throw to cut Strasburg’s lead to 44-40 with 59 seconds left, they turned the ball over on two of their final four possessions of the game.
“We’re scrappy but we let their pressure get to us and we just didn’t execute because we, for whatever reason, when they put a little pressure on us we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Generals head coach Patrick Smoot said. “It comes down to being able to do that and when you can’t you’re not going to win.”
Strasburg forced the Generals into 16 turnovers in the first half, but held just a 17-16 lead at halftime before point guard Mekhi Hendricks sparked the Rams in the third quarter.
The freshman point guard scored six points as part of an 8-0 Strasburg run to start the second half and also assisted on Tyler Brill’s bucket during the spurt that saw the Rams take a 25-16 lead.
Hiserman said the Rams ran a couple sets specifically for Hendricks, who was able to knock down a jumper coming off a screen while also converting on some shots in the paint after he slashed through the lane.
“I didn’t really play good in the first half. The shots weren’t falling and then something just clicked,” said Hendricks, who finished with 13 points. “That’s all you need and I was just heating up.”
The Rams carried an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, but Generals senior Ryan Smith instantly gave Stonewall a jolt when he scored six straight points — including a 3-pointer from the wing — to cut the Rams’ lead to 34-30 with 6:13 to play.
Stonewall Jackson’s chances took a big blow, however, when Smith fouled out with just less than three minutes remaining.
The Generals had issues with foul trouble throughout the game, as sophomore point guard Ian Pugh missed extended time during both halves with foul trouble of his own.
Pugh and Smith led Stonewall with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
“When you’re not very deep on your bench … foul trouble is going to be a trouble for us all year,” Smoot said. “Maybe I’m not as deep as I thought we were. It’s one of those things where other guys have to step up and we didn’t have that.”
Stonewall Jackson shot 32.5 percent (13 for 40) from the field in the loss, including a 4-for-18 mark from beyond the 3-point arc.
Strasburg, which was led by Ryan Smoot’s 16 points, shot 37.3 percent (19 for 51) from the floor and turned the ball over 19 times. The Rams were 0 for 8 from 3.
“We’ve got to be able to score a little bit better,” Hiserman said. “I though we ran our offense well and got good looks. They just didn’t go in. I think part of it is guys still getting their legs back from football. … And that combined with the youth and everything else.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org