Hot shooting sparks Rams to win

Strasburg's Ryan Smoot penetrates the lane for an easy layup during a home game this past season in Strasburg. Smoot, a three-sport star for the Rams, is the Northern Virginia Daily's 2014-15 Male Athlete of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STRASBURG — When Strasburg and William Monroe played on Dec. 22, the Rams struggled to make shots. In the first half of Thursday night’s rematch, Strasburg made sure that was not an issue.

The Rams shot 50 percent from the field in the first half to build a comfortable lead and held on for a 45-33 Bull Run District boys basketball victory over the Dragons.

“They’re a very good basketball team. They beat us down there, and we probably played our worst basketball game of the season down there the first time,” Strasburg senior forward Ryan Smoot said. “We knew if we came in and played pretty good that we could beat them. I think we did for the most part — play pretty well.”

The Rams went 11-for-22 from the floor in the first half, including 55.6 percent (5-for-9) from 3-point range.

Strasburg junior guard Jordan Stump hit a 3-pointer to start the game and it was a sign of things to come. The Rams went 6-for-9 from the floor in the opening eight minutes.

Strasburg's Tyler Fincham drives against William Monroe's Kam'ron McCain during first half boys basketball action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Shots were falling, most of that was we were getting good looks and they don’t always go down for you,” Smoot said. “We were lucky enough that tonight they did. We got good looks against them the first time, but they didn’t go down. So I guess we deserved some of it.

William Monroe’s Keegan Woolford made a layup and a free throw to tie the game, but the Rams responded with a 10-2 run the rest of the period. Smoot scored six of his team-high 14 points in the first period.

“We got shooters all over the court, which helps a guy like me,” Smoot said. “I’m surrounded with so many good shooters that can spread the floor, and I was able to penetrate. They obviously were playing a little bigger, because that’s their game. It was kind of contrasting styles a little bit, and we were able to use our game a little better.”

The Rams (10-2, 6-2 Bull Run) took control of the game to start the second period as Smoot scored on a 3-pointer and a free throw and Stump hit another 3-pointer to ignite a 15-6 run.

Strasburg had four different players hit 3-pointers in the first half.

Strasburg's Mekhi Hendricks goes up under William Monroe's Jeffrey Early during first half basketball action in Strasburg on Thursday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They were coming at us with their hands down. We’re confident enough to shoot it because we know we have shooters on our team,” Stump said. “Luckily, we were knocking them down.”

The Rams held a 28-13 edge at the half, but the Dragons did not go away quietly. Woolford scored seven points in the third period to help cut the lead to 31-20 with 3:47 left in the quarter.

Strasburg senior Noah St. Clair answered with a steal and a layup to extend the lead to 13 in the final minute, but William Monroe’s Anthony Terry hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 33-23 entering the final period.

“The second half I thought we played really timid on the offensive end, almost not to lose instead of trying to finish it off and get the win,” Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said. “I thought that was an issue in the second half. Young team, first time up in a big game like that trying to finish somebody off. So I think that had a lot to do with it.”

The Rams responded every time they needed to. A basket by Mekhi Hendricks and two free throws by St. Clair pushed the lead back to 14, but the Dragons made one final surge.

Five straight points by Woolford cut the lead to 37-28 with 3:56 left, but Smoot answered with a basket inside the paint to start a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach.

“We had some really good leadership out on the floor,” Hiserman said. “Ryan Smoot did a really nice job trying to get us under control in both the third and fourth quarter — trying to get us in the right spots, and keeping guys on task on what we need to do right there.”

Woolford led the Dragons (8-3, 6-2) with 17 points. William Monroe 6-foot-4 center Jeff Early was held to just two points, although Hiserman said he heard he has been battling the flu. Hiserman said he was very happy with how the Rams played defensively the whole game.

Stump had nine points and eight rebounds, and Tyler Fincham had nine points, seven rebounds and three steals. St. Clair had five points and four steals for the Rams.

The win moves the Rams into a second-place tie with William Monroe in the Bull Run District, two games behind first-place George Mason. The win should definitely be a boost for the Rams for the rest of the season.

“This is a really big win for us, because we knew we could beat them,” Stump said. “They were one of our two losses, and it gives us more confidence to carry on and keep having a good season.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com