Rams blow out ‘Cats to advance to district semis
STRASBURG – Strasburg’s boys basketball team made some adjustments ahead of its rematch against visiting Warren County in the quarterfinal round of the Bull Run District tournament on Monday evening.
Most of those tweaks came on defense, where the Rams shuffled their man-to-man assignments as a result of their overtime loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 2. The adjustments paid off for Strasburg, as it held Warren County to less than 30-percent shooting from the field and used an efficient offensive attack to top the sixth-seeded Wildcats, 62-34. The No. 3 Rams will play No. 2 William Monroe in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal game at George Mason High School.
Strasburg’s major defensive adjustment on Monday was the placement of senior guard Noah St. Clair as the primary defender on Wildcats’ leading scorer Cameron Ford. The Rams also swapped the defensive assignments of forwards Ryan Smoot and Tyler Brill, with Smoot tasked with limiting the rebounding ability of Warren County forward Robert Rutherford.
“I thought that helped us,” Rams coach Matt Hiserman said. “Then we were really patient offensively. I thought we were really patient and worked it and got good shots. Kind of methodically wore them down, kind of stretched the lead.”
Strasburg (18-5) was very efficient on offense in the first period, as the Rams hit 8 of 11 shots in the opening frame to build a 13-point lead. Warren County (6-15) matched the Rams point for point for the first half of the quarter before Strasburg ended the period with a 14-0 run.
“They shot lights out,” Wildcats head coach Vernon Mathews said. “We came out and tried to play man a little bit early just because I know they’ve been practicing against zone after last game. It didn’t work. They hit a lot of shots. Some of it was defensively. We weren’t closing out, weren’t boxing out.”
Both teams made four of their first five shots in the first quarter, and Warren County took a 10-9 lead following a deep 3 from the wing by Ford with 4:45 left in the frame. Strasburg immediately countered with a floater by freshman Mekhi Hendricks to reclaim the lead.
Two free throws by Hendricks and back-to-back buckets by Brill — including a 3-pointer — pushed the Rams’ lead to eight points, and Mark Smoot’s deep 3 at the buzzer gave Strasburg a 22-9 lead at the end of one quarter.
“When the defense was doing good our offense started to go,” said Brill, who finished with 13 points, including seven in the first period. “It’s a confidence thing, mostly knocking down shots, having confidence in our shots.”
Strasburg cooled off offensively over the final three periods — the Rams ended the night with a 42.8-percent (24 for 56) mark from the field — but its lead never dipped below 11 points after the first quarter.
The Rams took a 32-19 lead into halftime and quickly jumped out to an 8-0 run to start the third quarter that ended with fast-break layups by St. Clair and Hendricks and gave Strasburg a 40-19 lead.
“We wanted to show them that we needed to blow this thing open, that we didn’t want to keep them around,” said Rams sophomore Tyler Fincham, who had 13 points and six rebounds. “So that’s what we did in the third quarter.”
Warren County cut the deficit back to 15 points following an 8-2 run that included 3-pointers from Rutherford (10 points, nine rebounds) and Ford, but a pull-up jumper by Jordan Stump gave the Rams a 44-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Strasburg outscored the Wildcats 18-7 in the final period.
The Rams held a 37-31 rebound advantage in the win and forced 15 Warren County turnovers. St. Clair and teammate Cody Price combined to hold Ford to six points, while D’andre Lawrence finished with six points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
Hendricks and Stump (seven rebounds) added nine points apiece for the Rams, while Ryan Smoot led all players with 11 rebounds.
Strasburg, which dug deep into its bench early in the first half, scored 20 bench points in the win.
“We got great play off our bench again,” Hiserman said. “Cody Price came in and did a really good job. Jordan Stump came out offensively and gave us a big lift, kind of got back in a rhythm for him. He’d kind of been out of a rhythm offensively for a little while.
“It was a really good team effort from start to finish on both ends,” he added.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com