Prior to Dec. 17, it looked like the Montgomery County basketball landscape was taking shape. Per usual, Springbrook and Col. Zadok Magruder high schools were the powers; an undefeated Montgomery Blair team appeared to be emerging as the new kid on the block and James H. Blake, also undefeated, seemed to have turned the corner as an elite team in the area.
Two days later that landscape dramatically shifted. On Dec. 17, the Bengals went down. On the 19th, the Blazers were quieted. Both losses came at the hands of a Quince Orchard team that had begun 0-2 and didn’t even break the 30-point threshold against Walt Whitman.
“Whitman just completely outplayed us,” coach Paul Foringer said. “We acted like all we had to do was just show up.”
That attitude was wrought from a strong showing against Springbrook in the season’s opener. The Cougars kept Montgomery’s traditional power in check, even drawing it within two points midway through the fourth quarter before losing by nine.
“After that game, we all thought we were really good, ‘Oh, we were hanging with Springbrook, they’re the best team,’” senior guard Eric Hoadley said. “We just came in overconfident.”
The Whitman loss actually turned out to be more a blessing than giving Springbrook a close game had been. The defeat, not the mettle the Cougars showed against the Blue Devils, brought Quince Orchard together.
“I said, ‘I’m not doing this, I’m not letting this happen again,’” senior guard Charles Porter said. The embarrassing 29-point performance against Whitman bound Quince Orchard as “a family,” as Porter describes it.
“There’s more effort now, people are more willing to give up their body,” said Porter, who, averaging 16.3 points per game is the Cougars’ leading scorer. “We can build on that. The effort is there, we’re just a big family.”
A 33-point win over Walter Johnson, in which Hoadley scored 26 points on six 3-pointers, marked Quince Orchard’s first of the season. That preceded the pair of signature wins over Blake and Blair, both of which were undefeated at the time. And so the Cougars lifted themselves from what could have easily been another lost season as the 2011-2012 year had been, and vaulted to the top of the 4A West alongside Magruder and Northwest.
“It was just something that happened,” said Porter of the Blake game, where he scored a season-high 21 points. “It was just that rivalry, it was like magic…everything was just perfect.”
After the game, “they didn’t even want to look at us,” he said. “They were like ‘We lost to THIS team?’”
With the win at Blake, which was by a surprising 12-point margin, Quince Orchard ditched the losing record and, in turn, fostered a good deal of confidence.
“We can beat anybody in Montgomery County, anybody we play,” Porter said. “But we can also lose to them. If we were focused on that [Whitman] game, we would be 5-1 right now.”
Foringer, echoing that sentiment, has been quick to ground any egos in danger of getting overinflated.
“These kids are very shortsighted,” he said. “They’ll look at something that just happened and they’ll see it as truth. I got to keep reminding them, pulling them back.”
But something can certainly be said for a team that accumulated more than half of last year’s win total before Christmas. Foringer, not sacrificing any candor, was quick to point out the cause of the turnaround.
“The kids like each other,” he said nonchalantly.
Porter and Hoadley were both quick to confirm.
“Last year, the seniors were being individuals, not leading the team. We didn’t have teamwork like we should have,” Porter said. “The seniors gave up by the end of the year … it was like a rec team going against varsity every game.”
Said Hoadley, who is averaging 12.7 points per game and is the team’s second leading scorer: “Last year, we didn’t have any leadership. We looked to the seniors for leadership but they didn’t really have any. This year we’re like a family.”
So, on the backs of Porter and Hoadley, who have finished in double-digit scoring a combined nine times, this new Quince Orchard family has become a contender.
“I really don’t think there’s a team we can’t hang with,” Hoadley said.