Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10:25 PM
Published on: Thursday, February 21, 2013
By Brian Compere
SILVER SPRING - The Paint Branch High School boys basketball team bounced back from a 73-56 loss to Magruder High School with a 67-55 win on Senior Night against a visiting Clarksburg High School team coming off a two-win streak.
The Panthers had to rely on scoring options outside the norm, with their leading scorer, senior guard Jordan Radway, out of the game due to illness. Paint Branch coach Walter Hardy said senior guard Tristan Toliver and senior center John Onukaogu were also limited on the court by illness; the pair scored a combined nine points, although both have scored more than eight points per game this season.
Junior guard Reuban Edwards led the scoring effort with a team-high and personal season-high 14 points, followed by sophomore guard Donovan Walker, who came off the bench to score 12, tying a career high that he had set three days earlier against Magruder.
“It was just a great team win tonight, a lot of guys who stepped up,” Hardy said. “A lot of guys got minutes and did good things.”
Clarksburg stayed in the picture for the first half, which ended with a slim Paint Branch lead at 27-24 despite several missed Panther layups early on. The game slipped out of hand for Clarksburg, however, once the third quarter went 10-20 in Paint Branch’s favor.
By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Panthers held a 13-point lead and seemed intent to keep it, as they maintained their lead largely through free throw success within the first couple minutes of the quarter.
However, the game was not over for the Coyotes, who went on a late rally sparked by a botched Paint Branch dunk that had come off a block by Onukaogu. The Coyotes quickly responded with a dunk of their own that stood out as the main feat Clarksburg could accomplish that Paint Branch couldn’t.
“We are a team that goes in spurts. Different guys get us going, so we try to mix a lot of lineups and it just happens to be the one that clicked at that time,” Clarksburg coach G.J. Kissal said. “There’s nothing magical that we did, it just happened at that time.”
The game would eventually end on a 7-0 Clarksburg run, but Paint Branch refused to give the game up – senior guard Jason Scott responded to Clarksburg’s dunk with a pair of 3-point shots that gave the Panthers enough room to seal the win despite being the last points they would score before the final buzzer.
“It’s tough on the road against a very, very good team to scratch and claw your way all the way back into it,” Kissal said.
The win leaves Paint Branch with a 3-seed in the 4A north region going into the playoffs. The Panthers have a first-round bye and will play either Perry Hall or Sherwood on Feb. 28.
Going into the playoffs, Hardy referred to the series of missing layups early in the game as one of the team’s points of emphasis moving forward.
“We’ve just gotta finish plays,” he said. “I think guys when there’s no one around em, they take the play off and all of a sudden, ok, they miss the layup. Lay that up. I mean, it’s cost us.”