QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson was able to have some solid practices over the Christmas break, and it showed on Wednesday night.
The Generals rang in the new year with a 44-41 victory over Buffalo Gap in Shenandoah District boys basketball action.
Stonewall Jackson sophomore Christian Hess said the practices that the Generals had over the break helped the team a lot.
“It really helped with the practices, having people come together, more work on the basics, get to know each other and get better playing together,” Hess said.
One area the Generals showed improvement in was handling defensive pressure, which has been a big problem for the team all season. Stonewall Jackson still struggled some with that against Buffalo Gap, but not to the extent it had been earlier this season.
Stonewall Jackson junior Michael Stout said he felt like the Generals did a better job of handling the pressure, especially at the end of the game.
“When it came down to the end (of the game) we were trying to run our offense, trying to milk the clock and try not to turn the ball over,” Stout said. “And I guess for the most part we did that.”
Stonewall Jackson coach Jim Sanders said not turning the ball over as much allowed the Generals to play better defensively. Stonewall Jackson had 19 steals in the game, Buffalo Gap had 27 turnovers in the game.
“I think the defense has been there (all season), Sanders said. “It’s just when we wind up turning it over consecutively and allow a game that is close to all of a sudden stretch into about a 10-15 point lead for them – we’re not playing defense then. So you don’t get to play defense on that. I think that really affects it. But if we’re able to take care of the ball, get the ball down the floor and actually get to set-up our defense, I think we have a lot better chance of staying in the game, keeping them closer.”
The Generals held the lead for almost the entire first half. The Bison used a 5-0 run to close out the second period to tie the game at 20-20 at halftime.
Hess, who had a team-high 12 points, gave the Generals a real spark at the start of the third quarter. Hess scored 6 points in a 7-3 spurt, which gave Stonewall Jackson a 27-23 lead with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
“I got the ball from my teammates,” Hess said of his scoring. “And one time (Stonewall Jackson’s) Calvin (Smith) started to drive in the middle and made a cut and he saw me and gave me the ball – a good pass. It was just people finding me and people getting me open.”
The Bison (4-5, 1-5 Shenandoah) responded with a 9-4 run to close out the quarter and take a 32-31 lead.
Stout and Hess gave the Generals the lead again to start the fourth quarter. Stout hit a 3-pointer and Hess scored another basket inside the paint to give Stonewall Jackson a 36-32 lead with 6:41 left in the game.
The Bison used a 5-0 run to take a 37-36 lead on two free throws by Caleb Wilcher. Stonewall Jackson’s Ben Hasley scored inside the paint to give the Generals a 38-37 lead with 4:27 remaining. It was a lead the Generals would not relinquish.
Tucker Dorman and Stout combined to hit four free throws to give the Generals a 42-38 lead with 2:15 left.
“We just work on free throws every day,” Stout said. “So I just take it very seriously. And at the end of the games and during the game, that’s one stat that can help your team come out with a victory. So I like to focus on that and make sure that I can sink my free throws when needed.”
Smith scored a basket inside the paint to extend the lead to 44-38 with 52 seconds left, but Buffalo Gap’s Tanner Rivenburg hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 44-41 with 48 seconds remaining. The Generals went 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute, but the Bison weren’t able to take advantage of it missing two shots, including a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Rivenburg had 15 points to lead the Bison. Hess had 12 points, and Stout added 11 for the Generals.
Stonewall Jackson (2-8, 2-6 Shenandoah) plays at Strasburg on Saturday in a non-district game.
It was only the second win of the season for the Generals, and Stout said it could be a real confidence booster for the team moving forward.
“It feels pretty good,” Stout said of the win. “I feel like we could have played better, but it feels good to get another win under our belt. It gives us motivation going in on Saturday. Hopefully, this can help us going forward and get some more wins and play better, improve our performance every night.”