QUICKSBURG — Strasburg’s girls basketball team can let out a collective sigh of relief.
The Rams played their fifth game in seven days on Thursday and pulled out a hard-fought 38-27 win over Shenandoah County rival Stonewall Jackson in Bull Run District action.
“It’s exhausting,” Strasburg senior Jaden Alsberry said of the tough schedule. “I think we accomplished a lot though, and we’re learning new styles, new ways to play.”
It was also the fourth game in seven days for the Generals. Both teams showed signs of fatigue and had trouble scoring in the opening quarter.
Alsberry scored the first 5 points of the game over a span of six minutes. The Generals missed their first five shots and turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes as they struggled with the size of 6-foot-3 forward Alsberry and 6-foot-4 senior center Christyan Reid.
“I was pretty pleased with a lot of the things we did, especially on defense,” Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner said. “They’re so hard to score on. They’re just so big. You have the two big girls, but they have good size on the other kids, too. They’re a good-sized team and they’re well-coached. So it’s hard to score.”
The Generals cut the lead to 5-4 in the final minute of the opening quarter on a driving layup by freshman shooting guard Mya Councill and a steal and a layup by junior point guard Kylene Franklin. Strasburg answered in the final seconds of the quarter with a jumper by sophomore point guard Nyla Sperry.
The Rams (15-0, 7-0 Bull Run) were able to extend their lead early in the second quarter. Strasburg used a 9-0 run to start the period to build a 16-4 advantage with 5:14 left in the opening half.
Stonewall Jackson (5-8, 3-4 Bull Run) missed their first seven shots of the second quarter until 5-foot-10 freshman Annika Dellinger scored a conventional 3-point play with 3:41 left in the second quarter to cut the lead to 16-8. Franklin scored on a layup on an inbounds pass from Councill to cut the lead to 18-10.
Strasburg junior guard Natalie Hott hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 left in the second quarter as the Rams led 21-10 at the half.
Hott and Kenley Smith combined for 7 points off the bench to give the Rams a boost in the win. Reid, the Rams leading scorer this season, was in foul trouble for much of the game, which Strasburg girls basketball coach Darin Jenkins said allowed him to play other players and get them some experience.
“It gives you a chance to play some girls that haven’t got a lot of minutes,” Jenkins said. “When you got a lot of seniors on the team and they’ve been around awhile it’s hard to get everybody in there. I thought tonight we were able to do that and get some people experience. Christyan just has to play smarter in those situations and she knows that.”
The Rams led by as many as 16 points in the second half and led by double-digits the entire second half.
One real bright spot for the Generals was the play of Dellinger. The forward had 10 points and nine rebounds for Stonewall Jackson, holding her own inside the paint with Strasburg’s post players.
“I thought she was relentless,” Burner said of Dellinger. “I told her (Wednesday) night she is like this close to blowing it up. Annika has only been playing organized basketball for like four years. This is new. I thought she was relentless out there. I thought she battled on defense. I’m excited for what she has down the road. The other thing is she’s smart and she works hard – those are good traits to have in my opinion.”
Councill had 7 points, four rebounds, five steals and three assists and Eli Dellinger had 2 points and five rebounds for the Generals.
The Generals played well defensively and held an opponent to 40 points or less for the sixth time in the last eight games.
The Generals shot 20.4% (11-for-54) from the field. For the second straight game, the Generals struggled to make layups and free throws. Stonewall Jackson was 4-for-11 (36.4%) from the foul line against the Rams.
“We got to make layups and free throws,” Burner said. “I’m just a big believer that if you make those easy plays you have a great chance to win. I thought we got a lot of good cracks at it. We rushed and some of that is because they are so big. You’re wondering where is she coming from? But we’ve done it in other games where the big girls hadn’t been there and we still end up doing that. So we got to get past that and we got to finish.”
Both Jenkins and Alsberry said they were pleased with how the Rams played defensively, even when their offense was struggling.
The Rams remain undefeated on the season and Alsberry said the team does feel a little pressure to keep the streak going.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Alsberry said. “Everyone at school says stuff. I think it’s good. It makes sure we’re playing up and not playing down to any team. I think we still can turn up our level a little bit. I think we can still play way better.”
Alsberry led the Rams with 15 points and nine rebounds. Sperry had 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two assists for Strasburg.
The Rams put together an 11-game winning streak last year before falling in the Class 2 state quarterfinals. Jenkins said he’s proud of the way his team has played over their last 27 games.
“I think dating back to last year with this group the last 12 games of last year and then the first 15 this year, I think we’re 26-1,” he said. “So that’s a credit to those girls. That’s hard work and that’s hard to do. I don’t care if it’s high school, pee wee, midget league, any time you can do that – college – that’s an accomplishment. And that’s something they should be proud of, and we’re not done yet. We’ve got goals set and we’re trying to reach them.”