FRONT ROYAL — Rather than serving as a sign of things to come for Strasburg’s boys basketball team, the Rams’ hot shooting against Page County in last week’s season opener has appeared more like an anomaly in the early going.
Strasburg was dangerous from deep against the Panthers, hitting 11 of 18 3-pointers and shooting over 50 percent from the floor in a high-paced, high-scoring affair that saw the Rams pick up an 85-79 win. In two games since then, Strasburg hasn’t shot better than 34 percent from the field and combined for nine made threes in that span.
In Tuesday’s 66-61 loss to Warren County, the Rams (2-1) hit only 16 of 47 shots with 20 of those attempts coming from long range.
“Obviously we’re not making our shots,” Strasburg head coach Larry Fox said after the loss, “and we don’t do a very good job of understanding OK, we’re not making shots right now, let’s drive the ball a little bit and try to get to the rim a little bit, and then maybe kick it out. I think we’re settling for shots outside right now because that’s the easiest thing. … That’s the easy shot. We can get that at any moment, and I think we’re settling right now, to be honest with you.”
Junior guard Craig Pangle, who led Strasburg with 18 points against the Wildcats, was the only Ram to consistently attack the basket against Warren County and finished 13-for-20 from the free-throw line. The Rams collectively made 5 of 20 3-point attempts (25 percent), and nearly 40 percent of their offensive output (24 of their 61 points) came from the free-throw line.
Tuesday’s performance did offer a slight improvement over last Friday’s win against Stonewall Jackson, during which Strasburg shot only 29.6 percent from the field and made 4 of 23 3-pointers.
Part of Strasburg’s inability to adjust when shots aren’t falling, Fox said, can be attributed to youth and inexperience, and the Rams are also working out the kinks after adding two new players — Craig Pangle and his twin brother Kamryn are Sherando transfers — to the starting lineup.
“Right now we’re kind of relying on us outscoring people and when we’re not making shots, we’re not gonna outscore people,” Fox said. “We’ve really gotta start buckling down defensively and understanding when shots aren’t falling we’ve gotta get the win defensively tonight instead of trying to outscore guys.”
Strasburg’s switch to a 2-2-1 zone press energized a decisive Ram run in the third quarter of the win over Stonewall. The Rams got similar results when they dialed up that same pressure against Warren County, though they waited until midway through the fourth period to do so.
Strasburg, which trailed by double-digits for most of the night, ended up trimming a 58-45 deficit to a 2-point game with a minute to play but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“I think that gives us a spark,” Fox said of the press, “and like I told those guys in there, I’m probably gonna beat myself up a little bit not going to it sooner. I think it is gonna give us a spark when we do it in moments. Whether we can do it an entire game, I don’t know. Maybe it’s something we’ll toy with.”
Fox said some of his reservations about using full-court pressure more extensively have to do with the Rams’ lack of depth. Strasburg used only six players against Warren County and remains without a returning starter in point guard Dylan Hamrick, who is still recovering from a broken collarbone he suffered on the football field in October.
“Once we get Dylan back and we get a little deeper there, and we’re gonna try to get some more guys in the rotation, but like I told them, you’ve gotta earn that trust to find your way to the court,” Fox said. “And if through practice are you gonna make the right decision, are you gonna take your shot that you’re capable of making? I think once we get Dylan back we’ll probably be able to do some more things there.”