George P. Smith/The Montgomery Sentinel

Damascus’ Jalen Grimes (12) and Churchill’s Joseph Marley (45) at the tip off.

DERWOOD – The moment that the buzzer sounded for the halftime intermission, the game was already decided: the Churchill High School boys basketball team had three times as many points as their opponent, Damascus.

Even a second-quarter hustle by the Swarmin’ Hornets was not enough to stop Churchill from earning a 59-26 win in the Montgomery County Road Summer Basketball League on July 15.

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Churchill maintained a 23-7 lead going into the half, and it was clear that they were in control.

The suffocating defense, the hint of flair and the forced turnovers were all part of a Churchill game plan that was developed over weeks of play.

“Our biggest emphasis was to really grind on the defensive end, obviously tonight it worked out,” said Churchill Head Coach David Blumenthal. “Got to credit the guys at this point in the summer. Some kids can get burned out, but our guys have just been plugging away and just trying to find ways to get better.”

Blumenthal said that his Churchill squad played in two summer league competitions and has played about 20 games over the summer, gaining valuable experience that shows itself on the court. The hope is to carry this potential into the fall and winter.

The defense was the heart of Churchill’s game plan. It stifled Damascus into only obtaining seven points in the first half, frustrating them into creating turnovers that created more scoring opportunities for Churchill.

It was a cyclical process that was only broken up by an occasional Damascus shot.

“Our defense was on it today; everybody was just feeling it,” said Churchill rising junior forward Ike Onu-Chiedo. “Once we started getting comfortable (with) our offense, our defense started kicking in. That’s how we play: defense creates offense.”

Onu-Chiedo’s words rang true, as their defense allowed for more scoring opportunities. After two points from Damascus rising senior power forward Kevin Brown cut Churchill’s lead to four points at the start of the game, the game quickly turned lopsided.

Churchill went on a 10-point run, which was devastating for Damascus’ momentum, but it was exactly what Churchill needed to make sure they could pace themselves for the remaining half.

Onu-Chiedo’s 10-point effort was among one of the highest marks for Churchill. With four points in the first half and six in the second, his performance was spread out, but noticeable.

Stylistically, Churchill played with more leeway in the second half, afforded to them by their dominating first-half show. Gone were simple layups and shots, with some players opting for dunks and crossovers; even a failed alley-oop sprang up.

“I think we came out with no energy, no aggressiveness and started to turn in the second half. Still didn’t play as well as we should, or could, but by the time December rolls around, we’ll be ready for the season,” said Brown.

The second half got off to a quick start as Churchill went on another 10-point streak. By the time it was over, they were leading 36-7, with plenty of time left in the second half.

After Churchill’s run, the game became more tick-for-tack, with each team trading buckets. Brown had a team-high eight points for the whole game, but his performance was not enough to make up for the first half-slump.

Rising senior guard Jomo Goings had seven points, and was imposing on defense. He attributed the win to a team effort, a result of playing the better part of the summer together.

“We play scrappy; we had that mindset that we didn’t want them to score on us. We trusted each other on defense, steals and we knew each other, and the team chemistry is good to us,” said Goings.

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