For Stonewall Jackson’s boys basketball team, the Bull Run District tournament trophy is all they have to play for. For Strasburg’s boys basketball team, it’s a chance to continue playing at the high level they’ve been at for the last few weeks.
The Bull Run District tournament begins today with seventh-seeded Stonewall Jackson at second-seeded Page County at 7:30 p.m. and third-seeded Strasburg hosting sixth-seeded Rappahannock County at 7:30 p.m.
“Rapp is a pretty solid team,” Strasburg boys basketball coach Larry Fox said. “They worry me every time we play them because they’re a lot like us in many aspects. They got one big kid and several guards around him that can score. They’re just like us. I think we’re more senior laden than them. They’ve got a bunch of younger guys, so that kind of worries me a little bit playing them.”
The Rams are 13-9 and finished 8-6 in the Bull Run District, while Rappahannock County is 6-15 and finished 5-9 in district play. Strasburg beat Rappahannock County 60-55 on Dec. 20 and 52-33 on Jan. 27. The Rams have won five of their last seven games, including a 68-40 dismantling of Madison County on Tuesday in the regular-season finale.
Strasburg senior guard Trevor Sager said that he feels good about the Rams’ chances in the tournament, especially with the way the team has been playing.
“I’m pretty confident with the way we played (Tuesday) we’re going to be fine,” Sager said. “We just need to keep on doing what we’re doing.”
The Rams have been led by a balanced attack this season. Senior guard Derek Fox is averaging 14.4 points, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while senior guard Craig Pangle is averaging 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest. Senior point guard Kamryn Pangle is averaging 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game, and Sager is averaging 7.6 points per game and shooting 40.0% (30-for-75) from 3-point range.
Strasburg has already secured a Region 2B berth but won’t know what seed they will be until after Friday’s slate of Shenandoah District games.
Even though the district tournament is just for bragging rights and a trophy, Larry Fox said it will be a good test for his squad against good competition.
“You win a couple games there and you get your confidence going into regional play,” Larry Fox said of the district tourney. “It’s a good building block going into the regional postseason part of it. I do like our chances. It’s going to be tough.”
Top-seeded East Rockingham is the favorite and didn’t lose a game in the district this season. Sager said that he feels like Strasburg can compete against both East Rockingham and Page County. The Rams lost all four games they played against the top two seeds, but each game was competitive.
“I’m confident that we can play with any team in this district,” Sager said. “I’m excited to see what we can do. And I’m going to stay like that, because of the way we’re playing right now. I have no reason not to be confident in my teammates, in myself. I feel really good about us going into this (postseason).”
The Generals season will come to an end after the Bull Run District tournament win or lose. Only the top eight teams in the Region 2B power ratings advance to regionals and the Generals have already been eliminated from contention for those spots.
“Really playing for a championship, the only championship we got available to us is the district tournament championship,” Stonewall Jackson boys basketball coach Jim Sanders said. “That’s the main thing — that’s what it’s all about for us.”
Sanders said one good thing for the Generals is that they are on the road, where they’ve played much better this year than at home.
“The fortunate thing for us is we’re going to be playing on the road, because it seems like we play better on the road than we do at home,” Sanders said. “It’s been an interesting year at home. You think that most often that you play better at home, but my gosh we have not. We’ve come out and it’s almost like dead in the water, sort of.”
Senior guard Michael Stout has led the Generals this season, averaging 13.0 points per game. Junior forward Christian Hess has averaged 9.9 points per contest this year and senior point guard Tucker Dorman is averaging 5.8 points for the Generals.
Stonewall Jackson (5-17, 3-11 Bull Run) played Page County (14-8, 11-3 Bull Run) tough both times they met in the regular season. The Generals lost 57-40 to the Panthers on Jan. 10 and 54-47 in overtime on Feb. 4 at home.
“We sort of match up with them OK,” Sanders said. “The game (at home) was actually one of the few times we actually did play well. We got off to a slow start in that game but we actually came back and was actually able to go ahead a little bit.”
Sanders said he just wants his team to play its best in the district tournament and keep trying to get better.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten a lot better, but you just got to go out there and perform,” he said. “We’ll look forward to it.”