Wildcats win wild OT thriller

STRASBURG – Warren County’s boys basketball team showed some resiliency on the road Monday night against Strasburg.

The Wildcats trailed the Rams for most of the game and appeared on the brink of falling into an insurmountable deficit on a few occasions in the second half. But each time they came back, and their overtime rally was the difference on Monday night.

Sophomore guard Cameron Ford connected on a runner in the lane with four seconds remaining in overtime and the Wildcats held off a last-ditch effort by the Rams to seal a 60-59 Bull Run District win.

“We hung close. There were different points in the game where we could’ve just kind of folded and lost close. But they never quit. They kept battling,” said Wildcats head coach Vernon Mathews, whose team lost to Strasburg by 42 points back on Dec. 11. “At the end things worked out for us.”

Warren County (5-13, 5-9 Bull Run) trailed 59-58 with 14 seconds left in overtime following a free throw by Rams junior Jordan Stump.

The Wildcats pushed the ball up the court against Strasburg’s full-court pressure on the ensuing possession, and Ford saw an opening from the top of the arc as the Rams’ defense was still trying to get back. Ford drove to his right into the middle of the lane, bounced off Rams senior forward Ryan Smoot near the free throw line and found the bottom of the net with circus shot that gave Warren County a one-point lead with 4.8 seconds left.

“They gave me the lane,” said Ford, who finished with a career-high 25 points. “I knew they were either going to foul me or let me go. If they fouled me it was two free shots. If they didn’t, I was in the lane.”

Following a timeout, Strasburg got one final look at the basket as freshman point guard Mekhi Hendricks pushed the ball the length of the floor, but his floater from the free-throw line at the buzzer missed off the back of the rim.

Ford’s game-winning shot capped a comeback that included a Wildcats rally from a nine-point deficit in the fourth period and a three-point hole in overtime.

Strasburg (15-5, 9-5) looked like it was gaining some valuable momentum in the extra period after four straight points by Hendricks gave the Rams a 56-53 lead early in overtime, but Warren County got right back in it with a 3-pointer from the corner by senior Austin Thrane.

“It speaks a lot about these guys’ character, I think. They keep working hard. And different people are stepping up,” Mathews said. “I think that 3-point shot that Austin Thrane hit in overtime – that was huge. Until the last three games he hadn’t played much but I keep stressing to the reserves, ‘Always be ready. Always be ready to step up.’ He hit a huge shot there.”

In the fourth period, the Wildcats found themselves trailing 46-37, the largest deficit of the night for either team.

Strasburg broke a 35-35 tie early in the fourth period with two free throws from Ryan Smoot, and the Rams proceeded to build its nine-point lead with an 11-2 run. The Rams got a big boost during the run when an intentional foul on Warren County led to five straight Strasburg points.

Rams junior Tyler Brill (team-high 15 points) converted both free-throw attempts and then hit a 3-pointer from the wing on Strasburg’s following possession.

Brill misfired on a trey attempt that would’ve give Strasburg a 12-point lead two possessions later and Warren County responded with a 9-0 run – powered by four points from Clyde Ritchie a Ford 3 – to tie the game at 46-all with 2:35 to play.

“I don’t know what’s more depressing, that we lost or that we blew a nine-point lead right there,” Rams head coach Matt Hiserman said. “We were up nine and Tyler Brill had a look to put us up 12 and right there quick it evaporated.”

The Rams led 52-50 late in the fourth period but Wildcats senior D’andre Lawrence converted a short baseline jumper off a Ritchie assist with five seconds left to tie the game.

Tyler Fincham’s trey attempt as time expired missed and sent the game into overtime.

Strasburg shot 39.6 percent (19 for 48) from the floor, while Warren County shot 37.1 percent (23 for 62) and held a 39 to 25 advantage on the boards.

“We’re just not very good right now,” said Hiserman, whose team has lost three of its last five games.

“We’re too stagnant on the offensive end. Had no energy from the start – no defensive energy. We gave up too much all night long. Guys not getting energy in shutting off gaps. Guys not in the right spot, not boxing out very well. We’re stagnant against the zone right now and I’ve got to figure out what’s going on with that.”

Lawrence had 10 points, four rebounds and two steals for Warren County, while Robert Rutherford had nine points and 14 rebounds.

Fincham had 12 points for Strasburg, while Hendricks had 11 and Smoot 10 points and seven rebounds for the Rams.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com