Defense propels Rams past Falcons

WOODSTOCK – Strasburg used its defense to stir its offense Saturday night and flattened Bull Run District foe Central 57-32 before an almost capacity crowd at the Falcons’ “Nest.”

The victory was the Rams’ (9-2) third in a row and fourth in the last five games and gave them a 5-2 league record, which put them squarely in third place in the district.

Meantime, the loss evened the Falcons’ overall record at 5-5 and made them 5-4 in the Bull Run.

“The idea is to use defense to make for easy offense, even when your offense isn’t working,” said Strasburg guard Tyler Fincham, who scored a game-high 16 points and recorded two steals.

He was one of four Rams to hang double-figures on their county neighbors. Teammate Tyler Brill tallied 13, including 11 straight in the fourth period; guard Jordan Stump added 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and one block; guard Mekhi Hendricks totaled 10 points.

No Falcon scored more than five points, as Strasburg held Central to single digits in three of four quarters.

It was largely Fincham’s chore to check Central guard Austin Fadely, a junior playing for the first time as his team’s No. 1 offensive threat.

Fadely entered the game averaging better than 18-points-per-contest and was a cornerstone of Central coach Brandon Shields’ offense.

But Fincham held the high-scoring backcourt man to five points and one three-pointer. He permitted Fadely seven shots.

“I tried to get up under him and turn him,” said Fincham.

But that was just one piece of the puzzle for the Rams. Strasburg forced Central into 18 turnovers, many of which the winners converted into points.

Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said the half-court, man-to-man defense has been a staple ever since Millson French was coach.

“The idea is, even when you’re offense isn’t working, your defense is, and you can turn turnovers into points. We used our press to our advantage, but the thing about the press is, when you put pressure on the ball, you better have guys back to guard against on potential breakaways and, for the most part, we did that,” said Hiserman.

Speaking of defense, Shields improvised some of his own, using a zone to his team’s advantage. After climbing out of a deep hole – Strasburg led 18-3 with 6:10 remaining in the first half – Shields had his Falcons pack it in and forced the Rams to get their points from outside.

Hiserman said the zone got them a little.

“Truthfully, we don’t practice against it a bunch because we play a ‘man’ [to-man] and it’s almost like taking a break in practice, but they used it well tonight,” he said.

Central’s first point didn’t come until there were 18.6 seconds left in the initial period on a free throw by Bryan Davis. Its first basket was a jumper by Fadely to set the score at 13-3 at the 6:23 mark of the second quarter. But Strasburg rattled off five straight points to go ahead by 15. Shields called timeout to change his defense.

The Rams led 22-9 on a Jordan Stump follow-up at nearly the three-minute mark, but from there the Falcons went on an 11-2 tear into the third quarter. Eleven seconds into the frame, the home team had come back from shear disaster. The score was 24-20 and the Falcons had some momentum.

Just as quickly, Strasburg struck back.

“There was a period there where I don’t think the ball even touched the floor,” said Hiserman, recalling an 11-0 streak that ensued.

The Rams, ahead 26-22, got a free throw from Hendricks, followed by a steal and subsequent 3-point play from Fincham. Ryan Smoot took a feed inside for a score and Stump answered with another steal and resultant 3-point play.

Just as quickly as Central had introduced itself, the Rams went speeding by. When Fincham drilled a 3, it was 40-26 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.

It was all part of an overall 16-2 run.

Shields said he had to give his team credit for getting back into the game.

“But they’re really talented on defense and they kind of took it away from us. I don’t know, maybe we were tired after we worked so hard to get back into it. It’s hard to tell,” he said.

Central failed to score a field goal in the fourth period, and totaled just nine for the night. So it became the Tyler Brill Show as the junior knocked in all those digits in the late minutes to up the lead to 50-25. Strasburg had led by as many as 29.

Hiserman said they had one guy averaging in double figures and some of the rest of the players were around nine points [per game].

“But look at us tonight,” he said. “We had four in double figures and a guy like Ryan Smoot, who doesn’t score a lot, does all the little things that help us win. He’ll make a pass, get a steal or make a rebound, whatever it takes.”