Rams fall short against Mustangs

STRASBURG – Strasburg’s girls basketball team has been known for its man-to-man defense over the years, but on Wednesday night coach Darin Jenkins decided to switch things up. The Rams used a 1-2-2 and 2-3 zone against George Mason and it worked perfectly for the first half.

The Rams led throughout the opening half, but came up short in the second half in a 52-39 Bull Run District loss to the Mustangs.

“Going into it we didn’t think we could match-up too well with them if we went man,” Jenkins said. “We thought maybe we would get in foul trouble or they would get a lot of backdoor cuts on us. So we decided to go with the zone. We play that pretty well. … It’s something that we haven’t done in the past a whole lot, but we thought tonight it gave us our best chance to win.

“Defensively I’m proud of all the girls. They put forth a great effort.”

Strasburg’s zone gave George Mason plenty of trouble in the opening half. The Mustangs struggled to make shots. They shot 25 percent (5-for-20) from the floor in the first period.

Strasburg senior Carey Scott helped ignite the Rams’ offense. She had eight points in the opening period to help give them a 14-10 lead.

George Mason coach Michael Gilroy said the zone was definitely effective in the first half.

“It slowed us up. Our best thing is we like to transition and get up and down,” Gilroy said. “We weren’t getting stops and so they were able to set their defense. We were a little unsure of ourselves. We were second guessing shots, and we weren’t getting in the gaps.”

The Rams (2-6, 1-2 Bull Run) built the lead to as much as 18-12 on a driving layup by senior Kelsey Jenkins with 6:29 left in the first half.

The Mustangs (5-1, 3-0 Bull Run) were able to start chipping away at the lead. A 3-pointer by George Mason’s Sarah Lubnow cut the lead to 20-19, but Scott responded with a 3-pointer of her own with 2:34 left in the first half.

That would be the last basket Strasburg would get for the next eight minutes and 24 seconds. The Rams committed 14 first-half turnovers and struggled on the offensive end, which kept them from building a bigger lead.

“We haven’t quite got the hang of it yet on the offensive end,” Darin Jenkins said. “We’re in such a big hurry. We talked about it before the game. We talked about it at halftime. We talked about in between quarters. We talked about it every timeout, that on the offensive end we really got to make sure we run our offense. We got to make sure that we’re taking the best shot possible, and I don’t think we did a very good job of that.”

The Mustangs tied the game at the half with a basket by Lubnow and two free throws by Nicole Bloomgarden. George Mason started out strong in the third period. After Kelsey Jenkins made a free throw to give Strasburg a 24-23 edge, the Mustangs scored the next 12 points.

Bloomgarden had five of the points during the run, which gave the Mustangs a 35-24 lead with 3:18 left in the third period.

“I told them it was a tie game at half, and in this third quarter, if we don’t set our mark right now it’s going to be a grind-out game. We’re going to put ourselves in a bad spot,” Gilroy said. “We kind of took command of that third quarter.”

Kelsey Jenkins scored all five of Strasburg’s points in the period and cut the lead to 37-28, but Bloomgarden hit a 3-pointer and teammate Elizabeth Dodge followed with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend the lead to 43-28.

“That was huge,” Gilroy said of the buzzer-beater. “There’s a big difference between twelve and fifteen. Fifteen is a comfortable lead, twelve your teetering back in single digits.”

The Rams could get no closer than 11 points the rest of the way. Bloomgarden led the Mustangs with 13 points. Katherine Hirsch and Lubnow had 12 points each for the Mustangs.

Strasburg was led by Scott and Kelsey Jenkins with 13 points each. The Rams have a young squad, and Darin Jenkins said he was pleased with how his team did against one of the best teams in the district.

“I told the girls they’re our measuring stick,” Darin Jenkins said. “They’re at the top of the district. We played with them evenly for a half. We still got some work to do. It gave us a good chance to see where we’re at. I told them were getting better every game.”

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