By Randy Arrington
ELKTON, Feb. 21 — The first quarter was exciting.
The crowds of deep red and baby blue bellowed back-and-forth as the Page County Panthers held their own with the undefeated top seed, East Rockingham. While the Panthers were on the road, the most vocal of supporters seemed fairly even between the two rivals as they clashed for the Bull Run District tournament championship.
“It feels great to have a crowd like that behind us,” PCHS head coach Russ Rodriguez said after the game.
The opening minutes went the home team’s way, but the Panthers clawed their way back to even at 15-15 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
In the second period, PCHS senior Chase Combs traded three-pointers with standout sophomore Tyler Nickel, but the Eagles still outpaced Page and went to the locker room up by 10 points, 48-38.
In the second half, East Rock took control of the game, outscoring Page 22-10 and 26-16 in the third and fourth. The Eagles claimed the Bull Run District tournament championship, 96-64.
“They’re a heckuva team,” Coach Rodriguez said. “I think it bothered them early on that we didn’t back down. But then they seem to have the ability to get to another gear… and our shots didn’t fall.”
Combs led the Panthers once again with 20 points on the night, including five three-pointers. Senior point guard Trevor Williams had 15 points in the championship game, while Freddy Stidham added eight and Dylan Hensley had seven.
East Rock’s Nickels earned the right to be named the Bull Run District Player of the Year, putting up 36 points in the championship game, including four three-pointers and going 6-for-8 at the foul line.
As a team, East Rock hit 14 shots from beyond the arc during the title game — 42 of their 96 points on the night — including five from sophomore Cooper Keyes who had 15 points. Senior Tyce McNair put on a display with 14 points that included a crowd-pleasing dunk. Senior Da’rius Lam added 12 points.
As Bull Run District runner-up and the No. 4 seed in the Region 2B tournament, the Panthers (16-10) will host Staunton in the first round on Tuesday night.
“They’re not the Staunton of old, but they are a force to be reckoned with,” Rodriguez said. “I feel good about being at home.”
Other first round Region 2B action on Tuesday night includes Clarke at East Rockingham, Strasburg at Buckingham, and Buffalo Gap at Stuarts Draft.