QUICKSBURG — The 2018-19 boys basketball season has been one of a persistent struggle for Stonewall Jackson, and things got no better with a visit from a previously winless Rappahannock County squad on Thursday night.
The Generals, who have hurt badly for points all winter, suffered through an extended dry spell offensively in the matchup of two Region 1B teams, one that helped propel the Panthers to their first win of the season with a 57-30 victory.
Stonewall (2-11) led the game midway through the second period but mustered only 5 points during 16 minutes between both halves, a drought that buried the Generals in yet another insurmountable hole and led to their third straight loss.
“We’ve had trouble with scoring all year long,” said Generals head coach Jim Sanders, whose team is averaging only 36.3 points per game. “It doesn’t matter really what defense they run or what offense we run. You’ve gotta have a mindset of what it is you’re trying to do and how to do it, and I guess I haven’t done a very good job of making that real clear to them.”
The Generals made only 12 of 44 field goal attempts (27.2 percent) – including a 5-for-20 mark from beyond the 3-point arc – in the loss and turned the ball over 20 times. After putting up 15 points through the first 9:18 of the game, they needed the final 22:42 to match that output.
A bucket in the paint from Christian Hess (4 points, eight rebounds) off a Calvin Smith assist with 4:40 left in the first half pulled Stonewall even with the Panthers at 17-17, but the Generals managed just one more basket in the second quarter as Rappahannock closed the half on a 9-2 run.
The Panthers held Stonewall scoreless for a five-minute stretch between the second and third periods to build a 30-19 lead and led 41-22 at the end of the third quarter. Outside of an 8-point spurt in a span of 1:12 midway through the fourth period – which included back-to-back 3-pointers by Stonewall’s Tyler Dellinger (10 points) and Michael Stout – Rappahannock County never let the Generals into a rhythm.
“I feel like we’ve been playing good defense all year,” said Rappahannock coach Colton Ball, whose team has just eight players on its roster. “I just feel like we’ve run out of steam. We got an early lead, and I was able to get bench guys in quicker and keep, maybe, guys a little bit fresher. We’ve got eight guys, we usually play about six most of the game, and we were able to get all eight plenty of playing time. I think that helped a lot, just keeping guys fresh on the defensive end.”
The Panthers didn’t shoot much better than Stonewall in the first half but finished the night shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and had a pair of 12-point scorers in Richard Lillard and Mason Ramey.
Rappahannock also had a huge advantage from the free-throw line, where the Panthers were 23-for-27 while Stonewall made just one free throw on five attempts.
“When you attack the basket, and you’re aggressive and stuff like that, you’re gonna get somewhat rewarded going to the free-throw line,” said Sanders, who added that the Generals haven’t been active enough in moving to different spots on the floor offensively to create better shooting opportunities. “We have a hard time doing that. We wanna just slot up and shoot and stand and shoot the ball in one place. You can’t do that.”
Stonewall’s struggles have stretched to the defensive end as well. The Generals, who have played an extended 2-1-2 half-court zone for most of the season, switched to man defense in the third period on Thursday night but did little to limit the Panthers.
Sanders expressed discontent with the effort the Generals have put into their man-to-man defense this season.
“There’s concepts we’ve tried to teach them and tell them so we can get in position to help one another and stuff, and we have not bought into it,” Sanders said of the Generals inability to play effective man defense. “I’ve tried. I mean I love playing man-to-man. That’s my forte from way back when. Sometimes, out of necessity, you have to play a zone, and that’s what we’ve done, but really we’ve played zone not out of necessity because we’ve had injuries or anything like that. We’ve played zone because we just really don’t wanna play man-to-man.”
The Generals entered Thursday’s game with a 0.03-point lead over Rappahannock County – which had lost three of its previous four games by a total of 14 points – for sixth place in the Region 1B standings.