The Gaithersburg High School girls basketball team took another giant step in its season-long maturation process and it came at the expense of the host Paint Branch Panthers Friday night.
Playing without senior point guard Deja Rollins, who was held out to nurse a knee injury that has slowed her much of the season, the Trojans eked out a 67-64 overtime victory against Paint Branch behind the all-around play of Janessa Fauntroy, a point-guard-by-committee approach, and a key 3-point play by Danielle Rojas in the extra period for the team’s eighth straight win.
“It’s a really good win to have,” said Fauntroy, who produced 17 points, 11 rebounds and a handful of blocks before fouling out late in overtime. “We were in the locker room yelling and screaming. It was really, really nerve-racking because most of us didn’t know [that Rollins was sitting out] until we got here. We were like why isn’t she changing? What’s going on? But we knew that without Deja, we had to do the fundamentals; we had to help get the ball up the court. We just played the way that we know how to play. It was hard but we got through it. It was a learning process.”
Trailing 49-45 with 4:35 left in regulation on a 3-pointer by Paint Branch guard Kiara Colston (20 points), the Trojans went on a 6-0 run fueled largely by back-to-back transition jumpers by Briana Jones (15 points, 6 rebounds) for a short-lived 51-49 advantage.
Erin French sandwiched a pair of jumpers around a fastbreak layup by Daisa Harris (16 points) off one of several steals by the Panthers (14-3) to give them a 55-51 lead with 1:37 left in regulation. The Trojans (11-4), however, forced overtime with four straight free throws by Fauntroy and Dejanai Lowe-Hillard and then a block by Fauntroy on a running jump shot by Harris with around 12 seconds left in the game. Neither team got a shot off the rest of the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to who wants it more and I think we definitely stepped up, considering we were missing one of our key players — we didn’t really have a point guard today,” said Jones, whose team committed nearly 30 turnovers in the win. “The girls really stepped up. I myself felt like I stepped up. This was a big win for us. It’s just a side of the team that I’ve never seen.”
French scored the first bucket of the overtime period and Autumn Ashe connected on a 3-pointer from the right win to stake Paint Branch to a 60-57 lead, but a layup by Fauntroy and a 3-point play by Rojas (11 points, 9 rebounds) secured the lead for Gaithersburg for good behind just enough free throw makes in the final 56.5 seconds plus a near miss by Panthers guard Jasmine White at the buzzer. White’s shot from the right wing just rimmed out.
Rojas set up the 3-point play with a running rebound and then jumper in traffic inside the free throw lane. She split two defenders for the rebound and the shot.
“I think my team played really hard today; the [free throw] line hurt us [going 15-for-25] but as far as effort and leaving it out on the floor, they did that,” said Panthers coach Rochelle Coleman, whose team had its 11-game win streak snapped Friday. “I’m proud of the effort. I’m not too disappointed. It’s something to build on for the rest of the season and the playoffs.”
Gaithersburg 67, Paint Branch 64 (OT)
Gaithersburg 11 15 13 16 12 — 67
Paint Branch 14 17 10 14 9 — 64
Gaithersburg (11-4): Janessa Fauntroy 17, Stephanie Pantos 7, Danielle Rojas 11, Briana Jones 15, Christine Mabry 10, Dejanai Lowe-Hillard 7.
Paint Branch (14-3): Erin French 8, Kiara Colston 20, Autumn Ashe 9, Daisa Harris 16, Symrin Greenhow 1, Jasmine White 5, Leila Nicholas 5.