SANDY SPRING — From the start of the game, the Paint Branch Panthers varsity boys basketball team determined to give the home team Sherwood Warriors a hard time Friday night in every aspect of the game. By the fourth quarter, an exhausted Warriors squad could barely muster the strength to try and stop the Panthers juggernaut as the margin continued to widen, ultimately ending with the final score 77-40.
With the victory, the Panthers remain at the top of the County leaderboards, with only one loss to their name.
“Just play day by day, practice by practice. Just try to improve as a team and keep on working. We want to play every game like we’re the underdog,” said Dudley on the Panthers’ mentality that keeps them going.
The game started with the Warriors scoring first, as senior guard Donovan Lacey made the first basket followed by sophomore guard Nathaniel Lacey for the first four points of the game.
But in a show of lopsided retribution, the Panthers responded with a 19-point streak before junior forward Domenico Martella made a three-pointer to break their run.
Senior guards Davis Long and Lacey were pressured all night, and as a result were mostly pushed to the perimeter, occasionally pushing through the defense but mostly rendered ineffective.
From the first quarter, which ended at 20-9 in favor of the Panthers, it only got worse for the Warriors.
The Warriors made a game-high 14 points in the second quarter, a better performance from the home team, but not enough as the Panthers made 18. At one point Long got hot and helped narrow the lead to a slim eight-point margin, which was quickly dashed by six points from the Panthers.
Donovan Lacey encapsulated the emotion of the Warriors with a half-court shot that went in…seconds after the buzzer ended, thus counting for nothing as they went into halftime down by 14 points.
While the Panthers were a well-rounded team, junior point guard Richard Dudley and senior forward Xavier Reaves combined to have nearly as many points as the Warriors had as a team (Dudley had 19, Reaves had 20).
“I think the more he works on the details of his game, the better he’ll be,” said Panthers head coach Chris Bohlen regarding Dudley’s performance.
Dudley relied on his speed to get past the Warriors’ defense, while Reaves was more opportunistic and took advantage of his height to cherry pick, while peppering the game with a dunk here and there.
The third quarter saw the Panthers outscore the Warriors 22-7, as they continued to dominate and take advantage of the Warriors’ mounting frustration.
By the fourth quarter, the Panthers slowed down, victory practically imminent. Accuracy woes plagued the Warriors, but with a more relaxed Panthers squad, they managed to drain nine points before the end of the game.
“We don’t care if we’re down 40, up 40 we play hard, we play the same way all 32 minutes, and that’s what makes me proud of the guys we have,” said Warriors head coach Tim Gilchrist. “They just keep going.”