Page shakes off Nelson County, 61-44

Update 2: East Rockingham lost to Lee, 83-77, in the Conference 36 finals on Saturday.

Page County lost in the consolation game, 110-81, to Stuarts Draft. The Cougars hit 18 three-pointers in the win.

Update 1: Page County lost to East Rockingham on Thursday, 67-61. The Panthers led 34-31 at halftime, but East Rockingham's 11-2 run late in the third quarter pushed the Eagles to a comfortable lead. Page made a strong run at them in the final minutes, aided by poor East Rock foul-shooting, but PCHS could never quite retake the lead.

The full regional bracket will be announced this week.


Page coach Russ Rodriguez has said all year that he wants defense to be his team’s calling card.

In Tuesday’s Conference 36 tournament game against Nelson County, he finally got to show off just why that is.

Page (18-4) shook off a rough start to dispatch visiting Nelson County in the opening round of the Conference 36 tournament, 61-44. Senior forward Joel McKay had a game-high 17 points.

“There are going to be nights, just like tonight, where it seems like there’s a lid on the basket,” Rodriguez said after the game. “That’s why having defense as a calling card is so important.”
Page shot poorly for most of the game, but particularly in the first half, when Nelson County was just pesky enough to keep the game within arm’s reach with limited scoring and offensive rebounding. Page jumped out to an electric 8-0 start, thanks to some quick steals and tight runouts from guard Bobby Pendleton.

The opening minutes held the best offense Page produced all night, though. Nelson’s defense checked the Panthers into plenty of long-range shots. The Panthers — normally a crisp shooting team who would be happy to get into a jump-shooting contest with just about anyone — couldn’t hit much of anything past 10 feet. They were having trouble finishing around the rim, too.

“We were giving so much on the defensive end, I think we were having trouble getting it going offensively,” Rodriguez said.

Page, which held a more-tenuous-than-it-looked 29-19 lead at halftime, put to doubt any concerns of an upset after the break. Nelson County was called for too many fouls, and Page spent the entire fourth quarter in the bonus, chipping the lead north of 15 and, at times, 20.

A 30-foot buzzer-beater from Nelson finalized the game at 61-44.

No one’s game was more representative of Page than McKay’s, who had more trouble than usual finishing at the rim, but still ended up as the game’s leading scorer. With shots not falling, McKay took advantage of foul disparity in the second half, connecting on nine of ten free throw attempts.

“In this tournament, we’ll probably go as far as Joel takes us,” Rodriguez said.

With the win, Page will face off against county border rival East Rockingham on Thursday in the conference semifinals.

“I really do believe we’re as good as them, if not better, if we clean some stuff up,” Rodriguez said.

Clean it up, sure, but Rodriguez doesn’t plan to change their style. Facing off against East Rock for a spot in the conference title game brings pressure and plenty of eyeballs, but it doesn’t call for a reinvention of the whole team.

“At this point, we are who we are,” Rodriguez said. “We’re just gonna go at them and see what happens.”

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