Rams regroup to beat East Hardy

STRASBURG – Strasburg’s boys basketball team appeared to seize control early in Tuesday’s Ram Hardwood Classic semifinal against East Hardy (West Virginia). Then the Rams’ offense got a little out of sync.

Rushed possessions and turnovers from the Rams allowed the Cougars to claw back from a 15-point deficit in the first two periods, but some second-half adjustments resituated Strasburg’s offense as the Rams closed out a 55-43 victory.

The win sends Strasburg into the championship round of the four-team tournament against Luray tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs beat Skyline in the other semifinal round.

The Rams (5-4) built a 25-10 lead early in the second period against winless East Hardy (0-4), but went five minutes without a basket as a 14-2 Cougars run cut Strasburg’s lead to 27-24 at halftime.

Strasburg countered by out-scoring the Cougars 14-6 in the third period.

“We just went back to doing what we did to start the game,” Rams coach Matt Hiserman said. “Went back to making our guys understand that when we slow down and run our stuff fundamentally we can get shots and you get them in rhythm. When they went on that run I think we went six straight possessions with either one pass and a shot or no pass and a shot. … We were getting good looks and getting good shots and I think we get caught up in thinking, ‘oh now we can get them however we want them.’ And we haven’t quite grasped the concept of if you’re not scoring a couple times you better start making a couple passes and get back into the flow of what we’re doing.”

Strasburg’s defense, which forced 26 turnovers in the win, got the offense going in the third period as senior Tyler Brill’s steal led to junior Tyler Fincham’s breakaway layup two minutes into the second half. Fincham’s layup started a 12-2 run for Strasburg – which included 4 points apiece from Brill (14 points, four rebounds) and Fincham, another fast-break bucket by Jordan Stump and a driving layup by Mekhi Hendricks – to take a 39-26 lead with 3:18 left in the third period.

“Just running our stuff and doing what we do,” said Fincham, who led all scorers with 22 points to go along with four rebounds and four steals.

“We finally started playing the way we should play. We just kept on seeing buckets go in and got our confidence up.”

East Hardy, which shot 47.4 percent (18 for 38) from the floor in the loss, eventually cut the Rams’ lead to 45-39 after back-to-back buckets in the paint by Ricky Robinson (17 points) with 4:50 left to play in the fourth quarter before Strasburg responded with one final run.

Fincham started a string of eight unanswered points with two straight baskets before layups by Hendricks and Brill gave the Rams a 53-39 lead with 2:22 left. Strasburg then drained nearly a full minute off the clock during one possession while leading 55-43 to seal the win.

The Rams shot 46 percent (23 for 50) from the field, a number that was bolstered by some easy looks in transition as a result of 11 steals. Strasburg varied its defensive looks on Tuesday night, using some 2-2-1 zone full-court pressure and its traditional man-to-man.

“We’ve been doing a pretty good job in that 2-2-1,” Hiserman said, “but what we’ve gotta understand is we’ve been doing a good job of it early on and getting turnovers and getting leads on people, and then as people adjust to the 2-2-1 and we have to go back to either full-court man or half-court man we lose our focus of being in the half court where we’re supposed to be. … We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.”

Stump added 6 points for Strasburg, while Trevin Howard had five rebounds.

Timothy Hahn had 10 points and six rebounds for East Hardy, while Corey McDonald had 7 points, eight rebounds and five steals.

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