This year’s Ram Hardwood Classic at Strasburg High School will be a little different but one thing that won’t be different is the quality of teams in the boys tournament.
As usual there is a boys and girls basketball tournament with the girls tournament kicking off Friday at 3 p.m. and the boys tourney starting on Saturday at 3 p.m. There are eight teams in both the boys and girls tournaments. Both the boys and girls tournaments are divided into two brackets (white and purple) with everyone playing on Monday starting at 10 a.m., making for eight games on that day.
The boys tournament starts Saturday at 3 p.m., with Skyline playing Page County in a white bracket semifinal, followed by the other white bracket semifinal between Stuarts Draft and East Hardy at 4:30 p.m. Sherando plays Orange County in a purple bracket semi at 6 p.m. and Strasburg plays Manassas Park at 7:30 p.m. in the other semifinal.
On Monday the boys consolation and championship games will be held throughout the day. The white bracket consolation game starts at 11:30 a.m., with the purple bracket consolation game at 2:30 p.m. The championship games will be held at 5:30 p.m. (white) and 8 p.m. (purple).
“I know it’s going to be a tough task because there’s a lot of quality teams in that tournament,” Strasburg boys basketball coach Larry Fox said. “If you look at both brackets, it’s like gosh everybody’s tough. I know for us we play Manassas Park and they’re (Class 3) and they had a lot of success last year. If you look at their schedule this year, they’ve played some pretty tough teams and they’ve had success against them.”
Strasburg (4-2, 2-0 Bull Run) has suffered two losses to Shenandoah County rival Central, but has been perfect outside of that. The Rams have been led by the senior guard trio of Derek Fox, Craig Pangle and Kamryn Pangle.
Skyline first-year boys basketball coach Harold Chunn said he’s looking forward to playing in the tournament and he expects a tough game from Page County.
“Page has always been good,” Chunn said. “I’ve seen them in the Hardwood Classic in the past and they battle.”
Chunn said he didn’t know much about Stuarts Draft or East Hardy, but he’s aware of Stuarts Draft’s up-tempo style of play and he thinks if they met, the Hawks would do fine against that style.
Skyline (5-2) has played well at the start of the season led by junior point guard Mason Schmitz. The Hawks lost to Class 4 Handley and Class 2 Clarke County, but they avenged their loss to the Eagles with a victory last week.
Last year, the Hawks beat Strasburg to win the four-team title and Chunn said he’s excited for his team to go back there this season.
“I’m actually kind of excited,” Chunn said. “Last year Skyline went there and won the Hardwood Classic with just the four teams in it. I think we can go up and make some noise with the other teams Page, Stuarts Draft and the East Hardy.”
Sherando coach Garland Williams said he’s also excited to be in the Ram Hardwood Classic. The Warriors have been in other Christmas tournaments before but this is their first year in Strasburg’s.
“We know that it’s a pretty good tournament and they’ve been having some pretty strong teams there,” Williams said. “We felt that we it was best for us to stay local instead of traveling. It’s only eight, 10 miles down the road. We know that they have strong teams and hopefully we’ll be right in the mix with the teams that we’re going to play.”
Williams said he expects a tough game from Orange County, which is known for having a solid boys basketball program. Orange County won a tournament at William Monroe High School at the start of basketball season, beating Stonewall Jackson in the final.
Sherando has a young squad this season, with only one senior. The Warriors have been a little up and down but the Ram Hardwood Classic could be a chance for them to turn things around.
Williams said that he enjoys playing over the holiday break and it keeps the players fresh.
“We like to keep some competitiveness going on,” Williams said. “You have the (Dec.) 21st when Sherando lost to Central, 50-47) and then our next league game is not until Jan. 3. So you got 10-12 days and if you don’t do something there that’s a lot of rust to kick off. So we’ll give our guys some rest time as far as being with their families over the holidays and then the tournament is that weekend. So we’ll get another day of practice and they can still be with their family. So it’s turned out really nice and that works out really well for us.”
Fox said he expects the tournament to be competitive in both brackets and a good experience for his players.
“I tell these kids all the time if we want to get where we want to go at some point, if we get deep into the playoffs, we’re going to face tough teams,” Fox said. “So why not challenge ourselves now and get used to that competition early in the season, so it’s not a shock to us when we get there.”