Strasburg’s Ram Hardwood Classic tournament, which is always held in between Christmas and New Year’s Day, now has eight boys teams and eight girls teams instead of four as in previous years.
“Honestly, the reason why we did is there’s a lot of teams that want to play in it,” Strasburg girls basketball coach Darin Jenkins said. “We had teams contacting us wanting to know if we had any openings. So we had all these teams wanting to know if we had any openings and we didn’t have any. So (Strasburg athletic director) Matt (Hiserman) and I got together and said let’s build it, and hopefully, it just keeps growing.”
The tournament, which starts today, is separated into two brackets – a white bracket and a purple bracket. Each bracket consists of four teams and there will be a champion from each bracket.
There will be four girls basketball games today and four boys basketball games on Saturday and eight games on Monday. At 3 p.m. today, Skyline opens the tournament against Page County in one white bracket semifinal, followed by Stuarts Draft against East Hardy in the other white bracket semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Buffalo Gap plays Moorefield in a purple bracket semifinal at 6 p.m., followed by Sherando against Strasburg in the other purple bracket semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
All the bracket championship games and consolation games will be held starting at 10 a.m. The girls basketball white bracket consolation game will be held at 10 a.m. and the girls purple bracket consolation game will be at 1 p.m. The girls basketball finals will be held at 4 p.m. (white) and 7 p.m. (purple).
“Every year it’s fun, over the holidays,” Jenkins said. “It gives you a chance to see some different teams. I think this year is just going to be some good basketball and there’s a lot of good teams, both on the boys side and the girls side.”
The Rams open up with Sherando, and the two teams rarely play each other in anything. Jenkins said it will be a good match-up for area fans.
“I watched a little bit of their film and it looks like they can play, and they compete and they play hard,” Jenkins said. “I think anytime you play somebody that close to you it adds a different element.”
Strasburg is 6-0 to start the year, including 2-0 in the Bull Run District. The Rams are led by 6-foot-4 senior center Christyan Reid, 6-foot-3 senior forward Jaden Alsberry and sophomore point guard Nyla Sperry. All three are averaging at least 11 points per game this season.
Sherando (5-5, 2-2 Class 4 Northwestern) has a young squad this season and has been up and down. The Warriors lost four games in a row, before going 3-1 last week.
Sherando coach Brooklyn Wilson said she doesn’t know much about the teams in the tournament, but she thinks it will be a good experience for her players.
“We’re excited about that because we don’t know a whole lot about these teams,” Wilson said. “We’re very young, so I’m excited to see how they adapt on the fly, in-game adjustments, where we’re going into a game where we don’t know a whole lot. We’re just going to have to go out there and play and play hard.”
The Warriors have had to deal with a lot of injuries this season. They opened the season with five players sidelined. One player who has emerged for the Warriors is freshman Grace Burke, who has become the team’s leading scorer in her first season at the varsity level
“Grace (Burke) is a great player,” Wilson said. “When she gets hot it’s hard for her to miss. The thing that I love the most about her is that she just plays through no matter what and her teammates are extremely supportive. You can see it. You can hear it. They just love getting her the ball and helping her score and that’s a great thing for us.”
Skyline (2-4) has a young team, which lost a lot of last year’s team to graduation, and has been led by senior Jordan Kenney this season.
Skyline girls basketball coach Jim Kenney said that he knows his team has a tough challenge in the tournament, having to play Page County in the first game. The Panthers won the girls title last year.
“I always enjoy going over there and playing in that,” Kenney said. “So we’re looking forward to the challenge, and it’s going to be a challenge. That first game against Page is going to be a tough one. That’s a tough match-up. That’s a very tough match-up, so we’ll see.”
Kenney said that he just wants his team to keep improving with each game this season.
“I think every day that we’ve come here we’ve gotten a little bit better,” Kenney said. “I’m just looking for consistency right now across the board. Consistency in effort, consistency in doing the little things correctly all the time, not taking plays off and we’re getting there.”
Jenkins said that he thinks fans will be treated to a great tournament, and he hopes the tourney will continue to grow.
“We’ll see how this year goes and just keep growing it and making it bigger because it is fun for the kids,” he said. “I think it’s fun. A lot of people are on vacation over that week for the holidays, it gives them something to do. I think Monday we got eight games. So that’s going to be a long day for a lot of us but it should be a lot of good basketball.”