BURTONSVILLE — The Paint Branch Panthers varsity girls basketball team took full advantage of the visiting, injury-ridden Clarksburg Coyotes Tuesday to earn a 74-32 running-clock victory in front of their home crowd as the regular season winds down.
The Coyotes have already had to adjust their starting lineup due to senior forward Sunny Paul’s season-ending foot injury. However, recent injuries to center Trinity Klock and forward Aishah Kinney left Clarksburg at an offensive disadvantage.
The first half proved to be a defensive battle as both teams struggled to make shots. The Panthers didn’t gain the upper hand until senior forward Amele Ngwafang found her rhythm and drove down the court again and again, landing easy layups. The Radford University commit registered 17 points in three quarters before sitting out with an apparent injury in the fourth quarter.
Even though Clarksburg kept the score close in the first half, Paint Branch guards Cynthia Stewart and Jessie Kaur made sure that a Coyotes victory remained out of reach. Both players finished with 15 points; all of Kaur’s baskets came from behind the arc.
Clarksburg senior guard Phylicia McInnis scored 17 of her team’s 32 points and went six-for-six at the free throw line. McInnis’s efforts were in vain, however, since the Panthers ramped up their defense and held the Coyotes to just 14 points in the entire second half.
With Klock and Kinney slated to return before the playoffs and Clarksburg projected as a number two seed, the absence of several key players gives the Coyotes an opportunity to test their depth.
“We have way too many injuries and we’re just trying to fill the holes,” said Clarksburg head coach Sissy Natoli. “We’re kind of unraveling a little bit but we’re trying to get our mojo back. We’re trying to find our team chemistry and have the inexperienced players build their confidence.”
Paint Branch head coach Ravilia McMiller credited her team’s defense for overcoming a slow offensive start and stifling the Coyotes.
“Today we missed so many open shots. They just have to be confident that they can knock those shots down,” said McMiller. “We pride ourselves on defense and once we decided to turn it up, we pretty much shut [Clarksburg] down.”
The Coyotes will travel to Watkins Mill on Friday before facing what could end up being their biggest challenge: a date with undefeated Poolesville next Tuesday. Clarksburg will then host Seneca Valley to close out the regular season.
The Panthers will host Blake and then travel to Magruder before entering the postseason.