Bischoff sparks Strasburg’s comeback win over Madison County

In the interim between the third and fourth quarter of a Tuesday night came between Madison County and Strasburg, it seemed mathematically unlikely that the host Rams would go on to win the game, 41-37.

Strasburg was on the wrong side of a 32-23 deficit. They’d trailed by nine multiple times throughout the contest, always crawling back to within two or three, only to watch the Mountaineers nab a couple of steals and push the lead back out to multiple possessions.

There were plenty of reasons why Strasburg (6-14) was losing.

Madison’s full-court pressure wasn’t necessarily turning the Rams over, but it was speeding them up enough that their runouts were sloppy and missing the mark. When the Rams did turn the ball over, it was often pure clumsiness: Strasburg had at least five turnovers where a perfect pass slipped off a player’s hand and just rolled out of bounds.
After the game, head coach Darin Jenkins cited energy levels as a reason for the low-caliber play.

That all changed in the fourth quarter, when on the opening possession, Strasburg senior Haley Bischoff picked a pocket in the half court and ran it back, dribbling behind her back and bumping a Madison body on the lay-in for the and-1 foul shot. She converted. The crowd was loud. The players got back into it.

Sensing a dangerous swing in momentum, Madison County head coach Dwight Brill called a timeout.

“Why are you making lazy passes?” he asked his players. [Bischoff] will overplay everything. You know that!”

The next possession? Bischoff intercepted a pass in the high post and fed an outlet pass down the court to freshman guard Madi Smallwood, who finished the runout.
Suddenly, it was 32-28, and a comeback didn’t seem all that unlikely after all.

In the ensuing minutes, Madison County missed four straight foul shots, and freshman forward Christyan Reid – easily the tallest player on the court between both teams – beat the Mountaineers for an offensive rebound following a free throw.

The putback tied the game at 34.

Finally, in the last four minutes, in between traveling calls for rolling on the court with the ball and lane violations on free throw shooters, Strasburg finally took its first lead since it was 2-0.

A free throw gave the Rams a 36-35 edge with the game dwindling. Madison answered quickly with an uncontested layup, retaking a 37-36 lead.

The Mountaineers could have pushed their lead to three; a 2-on-1 transition opportunity came with just over a minute to play, but Reid stayed home and blocked the shot out of bounds.

When the Rams got the ball back, they found Bischoff in the middle of the court. She pulled the trigger on a mid-range jumper and missed, but she ran the baseline to get her own rebound and put the ball back for two more points.

Madison’s final two possessions of consequence ended with one shot being blocked and the other falling nowhere near the net. A few more free throws iced the win for Strasburg.

Strasburg’s win over Madison County snapped a six-game losing skid dating back to early January.

Reid’s defense and rebounding was key in the comeback, but it was Bischoff’s energy and playmaking ability that sparked the run.

Among the more impressive stats she accumulated on Tuesday night: she continued to play tenacious defense throughout the fourth quarter despite having four fouls for most of the period.

“We just told her to go out there and play her game,” Jenkins said afterward. “If she fouled out, we’d deal with it.”

According to Jenkins, the Madison County win is a big one for Strasburg because the teams are likely to face each other again next week in a conference play-in game.

“The winner of this probably hosts that game, and we’ve beaten them twice now,” Jenkins said. “It’s really tough to beat a team three times, but I like our chances. This is good news for us.”

Update 1, 2/10/17:
As predicted Strasburg hosted Madison County in a conference tournament play-in game last night. The Rams won 38-28.

Update 2, 2/12/17: Strasburg lost to George Mason, 52-32, in the Conference 35 semifinals last night. They will be a to-be-determined opponent in the regional tournament this coming Friday.

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