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Falcons hold off Rams for 14th straight win

Central's Dominic Strother hacks Strasburg's Justin King as he goes up for a layup during third quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG — Central boys basketball coach Jeff Whittle has warned his team that the Falcons will be getting every team’s best shot. That was the case once again Thursday night.

The Falcons held off a furious rally by Strasburg to pull out a 77-64 Bull Run District win. It was Central’s 14th straight victory.

“Obviously, we’ll take a win for sure,” Whittle said. “A win’s a win, but I thought Strasburg played extremely hard. I wasn’t too happy with the rebounding situation. Not only that, but we didn’t do a very good job shooting free throws. And we had a couple sloppy turnovers.”

The Falcons led by as many as 19 points in the third period, but the Rams cut the lead to four points or less twice in the fourth period.

Central (14-1, 4-0 Bull Run) used a 15-5 run to start the second half to open up a 51-32 lead with 4:13 left in the third period.

Central's Dominic Strother stretches to grab a rebound over Strasburg's Stephen Kloosterman, left, and Derek Fox, below, during second quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Central’s Luke Estep scored 11 of his team’s points during the run. Estep had 13 of his game-high 28 points in the third period.

“I knocked down a few shots in the second half to build my confidence up,” Estep said. “And from there it was just whenever I was open I was just feeling it.”

Strasburg sophomore Derek Fox hit three 3-pointers to help the Rams go on a 21-5 run and cut the lead to 56-53 with 5:25 left.

Central also suffered a setback when senior guard Varsey Bright had to leave the game due to an ankle injury. Whittle said Bright rolled his ankle and they are hoping that it’s nothing more serious than that.

The Falcons went on 6-0 spurt to extend the lead back to 62-53 with 4:54 left.

Central's Dominic Strother stretches to grab a rebound over Strasburg's Stephen Kloosterman, left, and Derek Fox, below, during second quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Rams (5-11, 2-3 Bull Run) had one last surge left. Fox and Strasburg senior guard Justin King combined for five straight points to cut the lead to 62-58 with 3:55 remaining.

Once again the Falcons responded. Estep started a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer to build the lead back up to double digits with 1:44 left.

“We never want to lose to Strasburg,” Estep said. “So when they pulled back, we gritted our teeth and we were determined to win this game, determined to get the lead back up.”

Central was 21-for-37 from the free-throw line, while Strasburg only attempted 13 free throws.

“We couldn’t keep them off the foul line,” Strasburg boys basketball coach Larry Fox said. “We didn’t stay in front of them and allowed them to get to the free-throw line — and they made them.”

Strasburg's Justin King goes up against Central's Luke Estep under the basket during second quarter action on Jan. 19 in Strasburg. King has helped lead a young Strasburg team to seven wins this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

Estep said Central’s ability to get to the free-throw line helps the players on the perimeter as well.

“We have a lot of guys that can finish at the rim,” Estep said. “So being able to drive the ball and finish in contact, make layups, get fouled, go to the line that helps us. Especially, once we do that a few times it opens up our shooters on the outside.”

Derek Fox had 21 points to lead the Rams. King had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, while Dylan Hamrick had 13 points for the Rams.

Larry Fox said he was happy with how hard his team played, but would like to see that kind of play more consistently.

“They just need to understand they need to play with that intensity every game against every opponent,”  Fox said. “We can’t pick and choose who we’re going to play hard against.”

Strasburg's Stephen Kloosterman goes up under the basket to score as Central's Sam Shifflett defends from behind during second quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Estep had 7 rebounds and 4 steals, while Bright, Dominic Strother and Jared Patton had 13 points each for the Falcons.

Whittle said he was proud of the way the Falcons responded to the adversity they faced.

“Overall I’m happy with the team and the way they kept their composure,” Whittle said. “They’ve done a good job all year of responding and we’ve got to continue that.”

Central's Sam Shifflett is fouled by Strasburg's Grant Scott during first quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Central's Jared Patton drives through the lane to shoot as Strasburg's Stephen Kloosterman, left, and Trevor Sager, right, look on during first quarter action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ram head coach Larry Fox talks to his team at the end of third quarter action Thursday night against Central. Rich Cooley/Daily

Central head boys basketball coach Jeff Whittle tries to settle his team down during a game against Strasburg on Jan. 19. Rich Cooley/Daily