STRASBURG — Strasburg girls basketball coach Darin Jenkins would like his team’s chances on most nights when the Rams hold an opposing team to 41 points. Saturday’s meeting with a familiar foe in the Ram Hardwood Classic championship game was one of those few exceptions.
Strasburg sputtered during its shot to claim the championship plaque against Page County on Saturday evening, slogging through a dismal offensive showing that ended in a 41-28 loss to a Panthers team that has now beaten the Rams in two of three regular-season meetings this winter.
The Rams (7-2), who had won seven straight since falling at Page County in the season opener before Saturday’s loss, shot only 26.7 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times.
“We were just stagnant,” Jenkins said. “... I can’t really tell you why we looked that way, I can just tell you that I looked up sometimes and I saw girls that were just not running the offense the way it’s supposed to be run, just going to the wrong spot, looking like they didn’t know what we were doing. I think it was just one of those things where you get them thinking too much about different sets and different things and they just get confused in there instead of just playing. I think it’ll be fine. I don’t think it’s a big issue, it just wasn’t our night.”
Jenkins had few qualms about Strasburg’s effort and the defense the Rams played against the Panthers (10-2), who have won six straight since losing to Strasburg in Round 2 of the series earlier this month. Page County shot nearly just as poorly as the Rams (29.5 percent), and Strasburg held a 34-28 advantage on the boards.
And yet Page County, which made six 3-pointers, never trailed after Strasburg took a 1-0 lead 27 seconds into the game and limited the Rams’ scoring to just four players.
Typically able to capitalize on a tremendous height advantage, Strasburg couldn’t generate much success in the paint as the Panthers repeatedly collapsed into double- and triple-teams on 6-foot-3 junior Christyan Reid when she touched the ball in the lane.
Reid finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds as the only Ram to reach double-figures.
“I was trying to explain to them that when you’ve got something like that going on,” Jenkins said of Page County’s defensive strategy, “you’ve gotta kick the ball back out on the perimeter and we’ve gotta be able to hit a couple shots on the perimeter to be able to soften that up. We weren’t able to get a couple shots. They just kept collapsing and sort of shut her down.”
Even with their shooting struggles, the Rams managed to cut the deficit to 19-18 after Reid stuck back her own miss with 6:12 left in the third period.
Page County immediately answered with layups from seniors Lauren Williams (16 points) and Sarah Southers, and after Strasburg trimmed the lead back to three, Panthers freshman Caris Lucas caught fire and hit three consecutive 3-pointers to send Page into the fourth quarter with a 32-20 lead.
“We come out of the locker room and cut it to three and then she hit those three threes and it went away just like that,” Jenkins said. “It’s basketball. It happens. It’s just one of those things, that’s a good team over there. Page is a good team. They’re well-coached, they play hard, they’re scrappy. If you’re gonna lose one, you’d rather lose one like that instead of one you’re not supposed to lose.”
Strasburg never got closer than 8 points in the fourth period.
Jaden Alsberry, who joined Reid on the Ram Hardwood Classic all-tournament team, finished with 9 points, six rebounds and four steals for Strasburg, and Karly Colcombe added 7 points and five rebounds.
Williams and teammate Leah Hilliard, as well as Luray’s Emilee Weakley, rounded out the all-tournament team.