When your basketball team features only two players above 6’2” tall, and you are staring into the formidable future of playing in the Montgomery 4A County East, arguably the toughest division in the county, you need to count on all the intangibles for success.
Paint Branch coach Walter Hardy, Jr. firmly believes that it is those intangibles, like teamwork, chemistry, and consistent effort, that gets undersized teams wins and respect.
The Panthers got a lot of both last night, as they handed Kennedy a 55-44 defeat in 4A division play, in the process running their winning streak to four games. The win improves the Panthers record to 12-4 (6-3), while the Cavaliers dropped their third game in a row, falling to 8-9 (3-6).
What might hurt the Cavaliers more than the loss, however, is the possibility of losing leading scorer Marcus Murray for any extended period due to injury. Murray, who went down with just under two minutes gone in the game after a scramble for a loose ball, was carried off the court, and spent the remainder of the first half with an ice pack strapped to his ankle. He did not return for the second half.
The Panthers took full advantage, using a fierce, quick zone press to harass ball handlers, and jump into passing lanes, forcing turnovers and hurried shots by the Cavaliers, who struggled without their floor leader.
The Paint Branch formula includes speed and quickness in concert with team chemistry, but balanced scoring and the abilities of juniors Jordan Radway and Tristen Tolliver, and senior Christian Roberts, are just as critical.
Radway took control early, burying back to back three pointers to start the game, and Roberts maintained control late, with 12 points in the second half. Tolliver was consistent throughout, working his way around the basket for 10 points.
Paint Branch opened up a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter, and managed to maintain that spread right up through halftime.
Coach Hardy’s main concern for his team is on the backboards, where his team struggles due to their lack of size. Kennedy stayed in the game during the first half only because they were able to get put-backs on the offensive glass.
“We are having a lot of trouble allowing second shots and giving up offensive rebound’” Hardy said before the game. “It killed us against Blake and Springbrook. Hopefully we can do a better job tonight.”
The Cavaliers tried to make a game of it, despite falling behind by 15 points twice in the third quarter.
Senior Asean Townsend (11 points) drilled three-three-pointers in the quarter, and sophomore Kief Williams (10 points) did the same in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers could get no closer than eight points during the second half.
Up eight with just over a minute to go in the game, the Panthers calmly went 6-9 at the free throw line to salt the game away.
In all, the Panthers put seven players in the scorebook, as they rotated players in throughout the game, yet another one of those intangibles necessary for an undersized team to compete night in and night out.
Players of the Game:
Springbrook @ Paint Branch (2/1 @ 7 pm)
Blair @ Kennedy (2/1 @ 5:15)