By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, Jan. 30 — At 6 a.m. Saturday morning, they were back at work in the gym, trying to put the previous night’s 70-57 loss to visiting Strasburg behind them.
Three weeks earlier, the Page County High School boys basketball team had hit the road and captured a 70-53 win at Strasburg — but the Rams flipped the script on Friday night after regrouping from COVID protocol issues and only holding five practices since Christmas.
The Panthers head coach took the loss hard, blaming himself for implementing the wrong strategy down the stretch, but it’s hard to look past the Panthers’ poor shooting as the root cause for their second loss of the season.
“This loss is on me,” PCHS head coach Russ Rodriguez said after Friday night’s game. “I was trying to find that spark, and I couldn’t get us into that rhythm defensively.”
The Panthers shot a dismal 22 percent from beyond the arc.
“The main takeaway is…what do we do in times of adversity?” Coach Rodriguez said on Friday. “Champions rise to the occasion. We didn’t handle it great tonight.”
In addition to poor shooting, the Panthers had to fight off strong play by Strasburg, who after starting the 2021 season at 0-3, have now won four straight games.
The Rams held a narrow 12-11 lead after the first quarter, before outscoring the Panthers 19-13 in the second frame to carry a seven-point advantage into the locker room at half, 31-24. The Panthers’ top two leading scorers, senior Canaan Pierce and junior Ricky Campbell, were held to only six points each in the first half.
Strasburg extended their lead to 12 early in the third period, but Page would climb back to within one with 3:32 left in the quarter. A three-pointer by senior Logan Cubbage, followed by buckets from juniors Dylan Hensley and Campbell brought the score to 39-38.
However, the home team continued to have trouble shooting, and the Rams extended their lead behind the second-half play of 6’4″ standout freshman Walker Conrad, who had 18 points on the night, and senior Ronald Fox, who added 17. The Rams were lead by senior point guard Ryan Roller with 21 points.
Page County put three players in double-digits as Pierce lead the way with 17 points, followed by Campbell with 11 and Cubbage had 10. Hensley added seven.
Next up, the Panthers (8-1 Bull Run, 8-2 overall) will host cross-county rival Luray on Monday night. Junior varsity is scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m., with varsity to follow at 7:30 p.m. The girls basketball game between the two local teams will take place at Luray. The junior varsity girls game has been cancelled, so the varsity game will tip off at 6 p.m. Games are, of course, weather pending, with a large winter weather event being forecast over the next several days.
Strasburg (4-3 Bull Run, 4-3 overall) was scheduled to travel to Clarke County (3-4, 3-4) on Saturday, with a 6 p.m. tip-off.
Coach Rodriguez sees Friday night’s loss as a learning opportunity for his players — something that should serve them well as they head towards the postseason with high hopes. After the game, the Panthers’ coach maintained his professional, business-like approach to focusing on the future and what his team’s true potential could be.
“We’re gonna stay positive,” Rodriguez said after Friday’s game. “We’ll be back at practice at 6 a.m.”
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