Rams crank up intensity, roll through Generals

Strasburg's Cory Clinedinst juggles the ball under the basket while Stonewall's Brandon Lewter defends during second quarter action on Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Strasburg junior Tyler Fincham said boys basketball coach Matt Hiserman told the Rams he wanted to see more defensive intensity prior to their Friday night home game against county rival Stonewall Jackson. So the Rams turned it up.

Strasburg forced the Generals into 14 turnovers in the first period, using a smothering defense to power a big run spanning the first two quarters as the Rams rolled easily to a 70-34 non-conference win.

“We were looking to come out and make a statement, and I think we did that,” Fincham said.

“Coach told us to turn it up and find the intensity. We didn’t have the intensity in the first game (a loss to Page County on Monday), so we tried to have the intensity the second game. And we can put five guards out on the floor and scramble and get steals, force turnovers.”

The Rams’ defensive pressure, which started as a full-court man press before switching to a 2-2-1 soft press with half-court traps, created 11 steals in the first period. Six different Rams contributed to that total as Strasburg (1-1) built a 19-point lead after the first eight minutes.

Strasburg's Tyler Fincham penetrates the lane as he goes up for a shot during first quarter action on Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hiserman said he began using its 2-2-1 press in the first period in order to see how his players would react to the switch.

“We were originally just going to go to it one possession and then I thought, well you know we’ve got a turnover out of it, let’s stay with it. And it worked for tonight,” Hiserman said.

Stonewall Jackson (1-1) held a 3-2 lead early in the first period after a baseline jumper by junior Dylan Davis, but from there it was all Rams. Strasburg sophomore Mekhi Hendricks – who had three steals in the first quarter – forced the final lead change of the night with a runner with 5:45 left in the first quarter, starting a 28-0 run for the Rams that ended with senior Tyler Brill’s 3-pointer with 4:32 left in the half.

The Rams began subbing liberally in the second quarter as they continued to build their lead. Stonewall turned the ball over on 19 straight possessions in the first half, going over eight minutes without attempting a shot in that span.

“I thought our defensive intensity was great all night long, even when we went to our second groups, and the kids even in the fourth quarter I thought did a good job on that end,” said Hiserman, whose team created 17 steals and forced 28 turnovers. “We’ve gotta create some things from our defense, especially playing with basically four guards. We’ve gotta get out there and create some turnovers on some people and I thought we did a really nice job with that.”

Strasburg's Tyler Brill goes up underneath the basket while Stonewall's Dylan Davis looks on during second quarter action on Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Generals finally ended their 10-plus minute scoring drought when sophomore Nicholas Pabon hit a bucket in the paint with 4:05 left in the second period. By then Stonewall trailed 30-5.

Generals first-year coach David Fowler said Stonewall’s young squad – which doesn’t have a senior on its roster – hadn’t seen defensive pressure like it got from the Rams on Friday.

“They were completely confused,” Fowler said. “And it was more of just needing to settle down. Again the emotions got the best of them, they’re trying to play at a different speed than what we’re used to playing at. I mean we like to play up-tempo but I mean they were just out of control with it. We were out of our stuff. As long as we stay in our stuff we’re fine but we got out of our stuff and that messed us up.”

Strasburg carried a comfortable 35-13 lead into halftime and immediately extended that margin when all five starters returned to the floor to start the second half. Rams junior Cody Price started a 10-0 Strasburg run in the third period that included 6 points from Fincham.

The Rams’ largest lead of the night touched 36 a couple times in the fourth period, as backups played nearly the entirety of the quarter for Strasburg.

Strasburg's Mekhi Hendricks is fouled as Stonewall's Dylan Davis plays catchup on a fast break on Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg shot 50.9 percent (28 for 55) from the field in the win while holding the Generals to a 33.3-percent mark (12 for 36). The Rams turned the ball over 14 times.

“I think our guys were a little upset with how we played on Monday and wanted to come out and really prove to themselves that they can play as a team,” Hiserman said. “And we have a chance to be pretty decent, and make some things happen.”

Hendricks and Brill led all scorers with 12 points apiece for the Rams, while Fincham (five rebounds) and Jordan Stump added 10 points each. Austin Schlenter had 9 points and Cory Clinedinst 7 points and five rebounds for Strasburg.

Davis led Stonewall with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Nick Dotson added 9 points and four boards. Brendan Hoover had 7 points.

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

Straburg's Tyler Fincham eyes a three point shot during second quarter action Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Stonewall's Brendan Hoover drives on Strasburg's Trevor Taff during second quarter action on Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily