SHENANDOAH — Strasburg looked like two different teams on Monday night.
The Rams dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, but struggled in the second half and held on for a 52-44 girls basketball Bull Run District road victory over Page County to remain undefeated this season.
Strasburg led 23-2 with 6:01 left in the second quarter. Strasburg coach Darin Jenkins said his team played some of its best basketball during that stretch.
“That was probably the best we’ve looked for that amount of time all year,” Jenkins said. “So that’s encouraging and then we sort of lost it. I don’t think we were ever fully able to get it back. We got a little bit of it back at the end of the first half, when we put the starters back in. The third quarter it just looked like we were somewhere else. It just looked bad. But anytime you come over here and get a win it’s a good thing. It’s a tough place to play. So I’m proud of their effort and that they were able to keep their composure and be able to finish it off.”
The Rams (13-0, 5-0 Bull Run) and Panthers (7-5, 2-3 Bull Run) developed a bit of a rivalry last year as they played each other in the Region 2B final, with the Rams winning. Both teams lost in the Class 2 state quarterfinals last year.
Page County’s Leah Hilliard scored the game’s opening basket on Monday, but it would be the Panthers only lead of the game.
Strasburg dominated inside the paint with 6-foot-4 center Christyan Reid and 6-foot-3 forward Jaden Alsberry. The pair along with sophomore point guard Nyla Sperry combined for 21 of Strasburg’s 23 points during a 23-0 run, which gave the Rams a 21-point lead with 6:01 left in the second quarter.
“I think the last few games is the best we’ve played ever,” Reid said. “We’ve played together, we’ve been more focused and we came out knowing that we were going to win and having the mindset to play hard.”
Jenkins went to his bench, taking most of his starters out and the Panthers stormed back. Page County went on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to 23-14 with three minutes left. Strasburg’s starters came back in the game and closed the first half out strong.
The Rams used a 9-5 run to take a 32-19 lead into the halftime locker room. The Rams shot 61.9% (13-for-21) in the first half from the field.
“I think having a 12-0 record going in here we had a lot of confidence,” Sperry said. “We started off really strong in the first half and I think we were ready. Then they kind of caught up and that started scaring us and we just rushed.”
Things changed completely for the Rams in the third quarter as they had nine turnovers and made only three baskets. Page County cut the lead to 36-32 on a basket from Hannah Southers with 1:43 left in the third quarter. Sperry answered with a jumper to extend the lead to six entering the fourth quarter.
A basket by Page County’s Caris Lucas cut the deficit to 38-34 with 7:42 left in the game. A technical foul was called on Southers and the Rams took advantage. Reid knocked down both free throws and then Sperry hit a jumper to extend the lead to 42-34 with 5:37 remaining.
Page County’s Morgan Lucas drained a 3-pointer with 4:59 left to cut the deficit, but Sperry immediately responded with a 3-pointer of her own and Page County would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.
“(In the fourth quarter) I feel like we were getting more into it, because we were all down thinking they had a chance,” Sperry said. “I think we just pushed through it and came out with a ‘W.’”
The Rams struggled at the free-throw line down the stretch but sophomore Madi Stinnette and Sperry each made some big free throws to seal the game.
Jenkins said he was pleased with the play of Stinnette and junior Natalie Hott off the bench, who both saw a lot of playing time in the second half with the game on the line.
“I think both of those two came in and gave us some really good minutes,” Jenkins said. “We’re going to need that down the stretch. They’ve got to get that experience in game situations, and especially it was good tonight because it was a pressure situation. I thought both of them really handled themselves really well out there. I thought Madi hit some big free throws coming down the stretch — that’s always encouraging. I like how both of those girls played. They can help this team a lot.”
Southers and Hilliard led the Panthers with nine points each.
Strasburg was led by Reid with 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Sperry had 18 points, four steals and four rebounds and Alsberry had six points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
Strasburg is in the midst of a tough stretch of games, most of which are Bull Run District games. Monday’s contest was Strasburg’s third game in four days and they host third-place Madison County on Wednesday and play at Shenandoah County rival Stonewall Jackson, who is in fourth place, on Thursday. The Stonewall Jackson-Strasburg boys and girls basketball games were moved up a day due to weather concerns.
“You keep waiting for an easy one, but there’s no easy ones,” Jenkins said of the schedule. “You keep looking at the schedule and you try to find that night where you say ‘Ok maybe tonight we can just relax and put it on cruise control a little bit’ but there’s no such thing in this district. It’s extremely competitive from top to bottom. I think on any given night anybody can beat anybody and that makes it fun, it makes it a challenge. Right now I think the biggest thing for us is we played Friday, Saturday, now Monday. It’s always tough to come back on Monday and play when you don’t have any practice and then playing Friday and Saturday on top of that makes it twice as hard.
“We got games (today) and (Thursday). So we’ll come and work on a few things (Tuesday) and watch some film and try to get ready for (today).