Slow start costs Generals against Buffalo Gap

QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson had been playing better basketball over the last few weeks, but on Thursday night the Generals hit a bump in the road.

The Generals started off slowly and couldn’t recover in a 50-36 Shenandoah District boys basketball loss to Buffalo Gap.

“The last three games we had been playing pretty strong,” Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said. “We were starting to make the turn and do some good things. But we just got to make sure we keep taking steps forward. We can’t afford to take any steps backwards. We’ve got to move forward and keep getting better.”

Both teams started off a little sluggish as the game was tied 2-2 for the first five minutes. Buffalo Gap’s Cam Smiley and Nick Rodeffer hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start a 9-2 run for the Bison to end the first period.

Stonewall Jackson’s Nathan Miller scored inside to cut the lead to 11-6 early in the second period, but another 3-pointer by Smiley ignited a 9-0 spurt to give the Bison a 20-6 edge with 4:17 left in the first half.

“I think what happened was we came out sluggish. Defensively, we didn’t contest their shots,” Smoot said. “Guys at this level are going to hit an open shot. If we don’t contest it, we don’t get in their way, they’re going to hit their shots. Bottom line is we have to respond and we didn’t do so.”

The Generals (0-10, 0-5 Shenandoah) were able to cut the lead to 23-13 at the half, sparked by four points from Kory Somers late in the half and a 3-pointer from Ryan Smith.

Stonewall Jackson played its best basketball in the third period. After a free throw by Buffalo Gap’s Zack Thompson, Smith hit three 3-pointers during an 11-5 run to cut the lead to 29-24 with 4:34 left in the third period.

“That’s where as a team we should have fed off of that and started to take back some control of that game and we didn’t,” Smoot said of Smith’s 3-pointers. “We didn’t do the things that we wanted to do after he starts hitting those shots. That’s big, and we’ve got to feed off of that.”

The two teams traded baskets for most of the remainder of the period. Stonewall Jackson’s Brett Jones scored inside to cut the lead to 32-26 with 58 seconds left in the third period. Buffalo Gap scored on back-to-back possessions in the last 30 seconds of the third period to take a 36-26 lead.

“That was a key,” Buffalo Gap coach Patrick Weller said of the final 30 seconds of the third period. “We’ve had several games like that this year, where it’s the same problem where we haven’t scored. We missed a lot of easy ones, we let teams hang around, hang around and then they’ve made some shots in the fourth quarter. So it was nice to be able to stretch it out a little bit.”

Smoot said the third period showed both the good and bad for the Generals this season.

“We showed signs where we can be decent, and then we kind of lose the focus on what we’re supposed to be doing,” Smoot said. “It’s that whole thing of continuously moving forward, instead of taking a step back.”

The Bison (5-8, 2-3) pushed the lead to 13 early in the fourth period on a 3-pointer by Seth Long, and led by at least nine points the rest of the way. The Bison were 6-for-9 from 3-point range, but struggled from the free-throw line (5-for-16) and missed some easy baskets inside.

“We hit some key 3s,” Weller said. “We were missing so many easy ones, that those few 3s that we hit really helped to carry us. We haven’t hit many this year, so that was a nice surprise.”

Rodeffer led the Bison with 15 points, while Long had 10. Weller said he was really pleased with the defensive intensity his team showed against the Generals. He said he’s happy with how the team is playing right now.

“We’re definitely improved over where we were last year,” Weller said. “We’ve won five games. The last two seasons we’ve won one each season, so we’re making strides, we’re getting better. Our guys are playing really hard. That’s all I can ask.”

Smith had 12 points, and Somers had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Generals.

“I told them in the locker room, I said, ‘Forget it,'” Smoot said. “I said the best thing you can do is forget this game. Forget the shooting percentages, forget the rebounds, forget the defense. We’ve got to learn to move on. It’s not our best game, and we’ve got a lot of basketball left to play.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com