STRASBURG — Strasburg boys basketball coach Larry Fox has preached all season about the need for his team to get out in transition and share the ball. In the first half Monday night, his team did what he asked almost to perfection.
The Rams built a double-digit lead and held on for a 51-47 victory over Clarke County in a key Bull Run District contest.
“We don’t seem to ever get easy baskets,” Fox said. “So it’s something we’ve been really trying to do is to get out and run the basketball a little and get some easy baskets in transition. We did a great job of it in the first half.”
The Rams started off slow and trailed 10-4 over the first five minutes of play. However, Strasburg responded with a 12-0 run over the rest of the first period.
Four of the Rams’ five baskets during the run were on layups either in transition or from a teammate making the extra pass.
“We got a bunch of people that can score the ball and put the ball in the hoop,” Strasburg junior point guard Dylan Hamrick said. “We just got to find open guys and shots will fall. The first half I think was some of the best we’ve shared the ball this year.”
Strasburg junior guard Craig Pangle came off the bench and played a big role for the Rams on Monday. In the first half, Pangle had four assists.
“I enjoyed it,” Pangle said of his assists. “When I get the ball I just keep my head up and look for open people down the court for good looks.”
Pangle along with teammate Da’Neil Holliday gave the team an energy boost off the bench. Fox said their energy is one of the reasons he has them coming off the bench.
“We have so many kids that can play,” Fox said. “Those two kids always play with a ton of energy. So our thought process is have some energy come off the bench in case things are kind of slow and dead out there for us. We have some energy come off the bench and those two always seem to bring that energy no matter what.”
The Rams (12-7, 4-3 Bull Run) finished the first half on an 11-2 run and took a 31-19 edge into halftime. A 3-pointer by Hamrick to start the second half gave Strasburg its biggest lead of the night, 34-19.
The Eagles (9-10, 3-4 Bull Run) fought back with a 16-2 run to cut the lead to 36-35 with 2:09 left in the third period.
“In the second half I think we got a little too complacent with what we were doing,” Hamrick said. “Our energy wasn’t the same as in the first half. That’s why it became more of a closer game.”
Back-to-back driving layups by Kamryn Pangle and Craig Pangle and a 3-pointer by Hamrick stretched the lead to 43-35 with 7:39 left.
After a driving layup by Clarke County’s Volkan Ergen, Craig Pangle drained a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 46-37 with 6:16 remaining.
The Eagles used a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 46-42 with 4:42 left. Craig Pangle responded with another 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven points with 4:20 left.
“I was feeling comfortable,” Craig Pangle said of his two fourth-period 3-pointers. “I was getting wide-open looks.”
The Eagles were able to trim the lead to 51-47 with 2:09 remaining, but neither team was able to score the rest of the way. Strasburg was able to take plenty of time off the clock on most of its remaining possessions by passing the ball around and the Eagles missed their final three shots.
The win, which is Strasburg’s fifth in a row, moves the Rams into third place in the Bull Run District. Clarke County beat Strasburg, 51-44, on Jan. 8 in Berryville.
“Overall it was a good performance by us,” Fox said. “The kids, they knew what was at stake. They knew it was a big game for us, a big district game. The kids came out with some intensity.”
Ergen led the Eagles with 12 points.
Strasburg was led by Hamrick with 13 points and two assists and Craig Pangle had 10 points and four assists.
The Rams have two more big games this week. They host first-place George Mason tonight and then second-place Central on Friday.
“It is a big week and that was a huge win for us,” Fox said. “Of course we got the two monsters of our district coming in (tonight) and Friday. So it’s going to be a good test for us — both quality basketball teams. We’ll see where we stand.”