STRASBURG — Strasburg’s girls basketball team has taken strides since falling to Page County in the season opener two weeks ago, and the Rams showed as much by topping the Panthers in Wednesday’s rematch for their fourth straight win. The victory also showed that Strasburg still has plenty more steps to take.
The Rams didn’t always look sharp en route to their 53-46 non-district win, which avenged a 20-point loss to Page County on Nov. 27 and featured a trio of double-figure scorers for the Rams. They struggled mightily against the Panthers’ full-court zone press early and finished the game with 23 turnovers. Strasburg also made only 6 of 14 free throws and in spurts were badly out-rebounded despite holding a distinct height advantage.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Rams head coach Darin Jenkins said after the game. “A win’s a win and obviously we’re glad we were able to get it. It was a big difference from when we played over there. Going into (Wednesday), we had the two worst days of practice that we possibly could have on Monday and Tuesday, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I challenged them before the game, knew that (Page) had a game (Tuesday night) on the road, knew they were traveling again tonight and thought maybe it was an opportunity to get them if we could.”
Wednesday’s win continued the run of success that Strasburg (4-1) has had since Page County (4-2) ran away from the Rams with a lopsided fourth quarter in round one and was preceded by a 61-57 win over Class 4 opponent James Wood last week. It was the latter victory that gave Strasburg the momentum that Jenkins said was the difference in Wednesday’s rematch, which saw the Rams seize control with a key run in the fourth period.
“I think we’re starting to understand that if we play to our potential, we can play with a lot of teams that are on our schedule this year,” Jenkins said. “I think that was the one thing that led into (Wednesday’s win). Over there it was the first game, the beginning of the fourth quarter we just sort of, I don’t know if we were physically tired and then we got mentally tired and we just turned the ball over and turned the ball over, so it sort of got us in trouble there. Did a little bit better job of that tonight. The team’s growing. We’re getting better.”
The Rams showed that growth even from one half to the other on Wednesday.
Page’s press gave Strasburg fits early, flustering the Rams into 16 turnovers in the first half. Those miscues, many of which happened in the backcourt as Page County’s defenders harrassed Strasburg’s ball-handlers with traps and double-teams, diminished the Rams’ 61-percent shooting effort from the field in the first two periods and helped the Panthers take a 31-26 lead into the break.
“We kind of went out sloppy,” Rams junior forward Christyan Reid said, “and they definitely took advantage of that.”
Strasburg cleaned things up in the second half and limited the turnovers while the Panthers went ice cold from the field, allowing the Rams to outscore Page 27-15 over the third and fourth periods.
Having been on the other side of a lopsided fourth-period run after getting outscored 19-2 in the final quarter in their first meeting with Page County, the Rams returned the favor with a decisive 12-2 run on Wednesday that turned a 40-all tie into a 52-42 lead with 41 seconds to play.
Strasburg’s towering trio of Reid, fellow 6-foot-3 junior Jaden Alsberry and 6-2 senior Daniella Henry combined to score all 12 points during the run. Alsberry (20 points, 10 rebounds, four 3-pointers) and Reid (17 points, 11 rebounds) each had a double-double in the win, while Henry added 10 points and five boards.
“I think the first game (against Page), it was the first game of the season, we were really slow and there was a lot of trash talking. I think we just kind of lost the momentum and (didn’t) play basketball,” Alsberry said. “Tonight I think we just knew that we had to play basketball. … I think it was just mostly keeping our composure.”
The Panthers’ second-half cold spell didn’t hurt either. Page County made only 4 of 30 shot attempts in the third and fourth periods and finished the night shooting 24.6 percent from the floor. The Panthers, who also made only 5 of 11 free throws, attempted 41 of their 65 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and made nine from distance.
Page hit six 3-pointers in the first half as Strasburg started in a 1-3-1 zone. The Rams reverted to their usual 1-2-2 zone as a result of the Panthers’ early success from deep, and Jenkins said his defenders did a better job closing out on shooters and contesting shots after they started to understand their assignments.
The Panthers’ poor shooting negated their strong presence on the offensive glass.
“Very fortunate because they did get a lot of second opportunities, third opportunities sometimes,” said Jenkins, whose own offense hit 21 of 41 shots from the field. “But again, I think a lot of it was even when they got those opportunities we were able to recover, get back into our positions and at least get a hand up to affect the shot.”
Strasburg returns to action against next Tuesday against Warren County, a team the Rams thumped by 69 points at home last week.