Third-period surge lifts Rams to win

Stonewall Jackson's Kory Somers shoots over Strasburg's Ryan Smoot during first quarter boys Conference 35 tournament quarterfinals action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG — Strasburg was struggling on both sides of the ball early in the third period as the Rams fell behind Stonewall Jackson on Thursday night.

The Rams used their defense to help ignite their offense and rallied for a 53-44 victory over the Generals in the Conference 35 boys basketball tournament quarterfinals. Conference 35 decided not to play the semifinals and finals due to the weather, and the win advances the Rams to next week’s Region 2A East tournament.

“We didn’t play any defense in the second quarter or beginning of the third,” Strasburg senior Ryan Smoot said. “When they took the lead, we were able to respond to it and we used our defense to do it.”

The Rams led 23-20 at the half, but Stonewall Jackson’s Kory Somers scored four straight points to give the Generals a 24-23 lead. Strasburg’s Mekhi Hendricks scored on a layup, but Stonewall Jackson’s Ryan Smith drained a 3-pointer to give the Generals a 27-25 lead with 4:42 left in the third period.

Strasburg then went on a 13-2 run to end the third period, the Generals turned the ball over six times during the spurt.

Strasburg's Ryan Smoot looks for room as he prepares to go up for a shot over Stonewall Jackson's Derrick Smith during second quarter boys Conference 35 tournament quarterfinals action held Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They’re a good team and they battled back,” Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said. “Basketball is a game of storms. You have to weather each team’s storm. We went on a run, and they went on a run.”

Hendricks, a freshman point guard, played a big role in turning things around for the Rams. Hendricks scored seven points in the third period, and followed that up with eight more in the fourth.

“Mekhi [Hendricks] doesn’t get rattled,” Strasburg coach Matt Hiserman said. “You never really know what Mekhi is thinking. He doesn’t show much emotion. I thought he really took over for us in the second half. He really stepped up for us.”

The Generals didn’t go away quietly. They were able to make a late run and pulled within eight, 48-40, on a steal and layup by Nathan Miller with 1:58 remaining.

The Rams missed the front end of one-and-one’s on two straight possessions, but the Generals weren’t able to take advantage.

Strasburg's Noah St. Clair drives past Stonewall Jackson's Dylan Davis during second quarter boys Conference 35 tournament quarterfinals action held Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hendricks hit two free throws, but a basket by Somers and a steal and layup from Derrick Smith cut the lead to 50-44 with 45 seconds left, but that’s as close as they would get.

Patrick Smoot said that the game was like many of their games this season.

“Even though we’re 1-20 we’ve lost a lot of close games by two points, three, five, six,” Smoot said. “We’ve been in this situation many times, we just can’t quite capitalize on it.”

The Rams came out strong and took an early 17-6 lead in the first period, led by Ryan Smoot’s eight points.

Things changed in the second period. Strasburg’s Tyler Brill picked up two fouls late in the first period, and Hiserman said they got out of rhythm on offense.

Miller carried the Generals in the early going, scoring the team’s first 11 points. The Generals chipped away at the lead in the second period, and a basket by Miller and a 3-pointer from Ryan Summers cut the lead to 23-20 at the half.

“I think they played with great effort and great intensity from start to finish,” Patrick Smoot said. “Unfortunately, some of our shots just didn’t fall.”

Miller led the Generals with 17 points, while Somers added 10.

“I’ve always said since I took over this program that we’re not going to worry about the wins and losses,” Smoot said. “As long as we meet the goals and objectives that we set, then that’s what matters.

“The underclassmen need to work hard to try to get better so that they don’t have to feel like this again next year.”

Hendricks led the Rams with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Ryan Smoot had 15 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.

Strasburg will host a Region 2A East first round game on Tuesday for the first time since at least the 1999-2000 season.

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