STRASBURG — Strasburg girls basketball coach Darin Jenkins breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday night.
Jenkins was concerned about how his squad would handle Clarke County’s relentless full-court pressure. The Rams struggled at times but put together a big run in the fourth quarter to pull out a 46-38 Bull Run District victory over Clarke County.
“I was worried about this one because I just didn’t know how we would respond,” Jenkins said. “And I knew what kind of pressure we were going to be facing. I was worried about this one for a couple of days. ...We prepared for it for two days and I thought we responded well. I thought everyone responded well. There were some breakdowns, but overall I thought we did a good job.”
The Rams (10-3, 1-1 Bull Run) were able to break the full-court press most of the game. But at times once they would break it and get into the half court, Clarke County’s stifling half-court defensive pressure caused them problems.
Strasburg freshman point guard Nyla Sperry said Clarke County’s defense was a challenge for the Rams.
“When you go so fast it’s easy to turn it over because you’re rushing and you just wanna get the ball up the court,” Sperry said. “But when you slow it down it’s hard because their defense is tight up on you. You just have to make smart decisions.”
The Rams had 16 first-half turnovers but still held a 19-18 halftime lead. Strasburg 6-foot-3 junior Christyan Reid had 10 points in the half to keep the Rams in front.
Strasburg was able to force the Eagles into 14 first-half turnovers of their own. Strasburg used a 2-3 zone for the whole game and Jenkins said it worked out well.
“I thought that gave us the best chance to win,” Jenkins said. “Clarke County likes to drive to the basket and I thought if we played a 2-3 (zone) with our big girls we could clog up the middle and force them to shoot outside. Now a couple of them hit some big shots for them, but I thought overall that it worked.”
The Rams held a slim lead throughout the third period. A layup by Carly Colcombe with seven seconds left in the third period gave the Rams a 26-22 lead and started a 16-3 run that carried into the fourth period.
Reid scored eight points during the run during which Strasburg went 6-for-8 from the floor. Reid said 6-foot-2 Daniella Henry played a big part in the Rams ability to pull away.
“Daniella (Henry) helped a lot,” Reid said of the fourth period. “Once she got in she had a very good end of the game.”
Jenkins said that he thought there were two keys to the Rams’ run in the fourth period.
“I think our defense was really good in the second half,” Jenkins said. “I think they started setting a screen on that zone and our two bottom girls on the zone Jaden (Alsberry) and Karly (Colcombe) was getting out real good and covering the perimeter in the corner. And then when we put Daniella (Henry) in there and we had Daniella and Christyan (Reid) in, it just puts more pressure on their defense.”
The Rams were able to extend the lead to as much as 15, 43-28, with 1:38 left. The Eagles would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Jenkins said he was pleased with how his two freshmen point guards, Sperry and Madison Stinnette, handled Clarke County’s pressure defense.
The Rams were able to play all 10 players and Jenkins said he’s been happy with his bench all season.
“I don’t have a problem putting anybody on my bench in the game,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think there’s going to be much dropoff. I really don’t. I think they’re all prepared. I think they all can play and they can all do something different really well. I’m pleased with what we’ve got and hopefully, it pays off for us in the long run.”
Reid led the Rams with 19 points and eight rebounds. Sperry had 9 points, four steals and three assists and Alsberry had 6 points and 10 rebounds for the Rams. Strasburg hosts George Mason tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Strasburg suffered a disappointing loss to Madison County last week to start Bull Run District play. The Rams beat Stonewall Jackson in non-district action last weekend, but the players said it was important to bounce back and get their first district win of the season against the Eagles.
“We kind of had a few bad losses, but tonight we bounced back and won,” Reid said. “We definitely had a lot more energy and we were all hyped up to play. And I think it showed on the court. If we play like this every game, we’re going to win a lot of games. Tonight was a really good win.”