QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson High School’s girls basketball team has thrived at home this season. The Generals are now hoping to turn Strasburg High School into Stonewall Jackson North.
A location change for Stonewall’s Virginia High School League Class 1 state quarterfinal game against Lancaster on Saturday landed the contest at the home of one of its Shenandoah County rivals, a move that could present plenty of advantages for a Generals squad that went 11-3 at home this season.
Though not a true home game, Strasburg is only 30 minutes away and its gymnasium is nearly identical to that of Stonewall’s.
“(The gym’s) a little purplish but we’ll adopt that purple if we can,” Generals head coach Jeff Burner said, referring to Strasburg’s school color. “You know, I hope that what it does is it allows us to sort of keep our routine. I like that we are able to go to school that day and then we’re gonna eat afterwards and do like we always do, and sort of go down there and then play.”
Saturday’s neutral-site game was originally scheduled to be held at Prince Edward County High School in Farmville, the location designated as the host site for Region 1B in the state tournament. That would’ve been a 2½-hour drive for the Generals, the champions of Region 1B.
Burner said Strasburg athletic director Matt Hiserman reached out to Stonewall AD Mike Lenox and principal Mike Dorman about hosting Saturday’s state quarterfinal game following last week’s Region 1B championship game, and Lenox made the necessary arrangements to have the game’s location moved.
Should the Generals win Saturday, they would play again at Strasburg in the state semifinals on Tuesday, Burner said.
“Mike Lenox made the effort to get it moved and I’m just so grateful that he did that because he did what was best for our kids,” said Burner, whose team played – and won – all three of its regional tournament games at home last week. “And our kids had earned the right to host close by. Why should we go the same distance away when we’re the region champ and they’re the runner-up? Every other region’s got their champions close by to where they’re playing, so I was really proud that he made that effort to do what was right for our kids.
“And of course Hiserman and I go way back,” Burner added, “and he’s a good guy and I appreciate Strasburg stepping in there to fill that role for us, too.”
Stonewall Jackson’s players also praised the move at practice earlier this week.
“I mean we’re clearly happy,” Generals senior J.J. Dellinger said. “No one wants to ride to Farmville if they don’t have to. And I don’t know, we might have more of a home crowd and a home atmosphere, so we’re really excited about that.”
The Generals are hoping the proximity draws more than just the Stonewall Jackson faithful.
Burner took to Twitter earlier this week to reach out to Strasburg’s student section, “The Mountain,” expressing his desire to have the group join Stonewall’s own student section at Saturday night’s game. He said on Tuesday that he’s held a lot of respect for The Mountain’s energy and enthusiasm since the group formed several years ago.
“I figured I’d reach out, and I’d love to have them there with our kids,” Burner said. “Because you know what, I want (Central’s boys basketball team) to win it all. I mean I firmly want that. I want to see kids in Shenandoah County do well.
“I just reached out to say ‘Hey, we really appreciate you guys and if you’re there to cheer for us we’re not gonna shun you away.’ We’ll adopt you to help us out. We can use all the help we can get.”