G.J. Kissal couldn't really explain what had just happened, only that his Clarksburg High School boys' basketball team that traded scores the entire first half with Gaithersburg on Friday night put on a vanishing act in the second. Trojans coach Tom Sheahin knew exactly what happened.
The second half is where Gaithersburg “turns up.”
“We always turn up,” said Trojan Anthony Tarke, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the 83-59 home victory. “We always know what we're going to do when we step on the court. We analyze what the teams and players have and then we go out there and make alternative movements and just execute, and it's successful.”
“It's like we're studying, studying, studying,” added Geron Braithwaite, who had a game-high 25 points. “We go to halftime, the locker room, just see what it looks like and try to execute in the second half.”
The Trojans' feverish second halves are where they have bested every team thus far in their impressive, 5-0 start. They are the only team in the county to score at least 80 points in every game, and much of that can be attributed to their ability to wear teams down and pull away in the final 16 minutes.
Entering Friday's clash between the Montgomery 4A West Division leaders, Gaithersburg had beaten every team by at least 18, including a strong Poolesville team and Winston Churchill, whom many coaches pointed to as a contender in the preseason.
The Coyotes, however, also projected to be one of the strongest teams in the area, seemed poised to break the streak of drubbings. They led in spots throughout the first half, though their biggest advantage the entire night was only a single point, and at the break the Trojans were up by a manageable, two-possession margin.
And then came the “turn up.”
Less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, Gaithersburg had already opened a 16-point advantage and Clarksburg would never reduce the deficit to less than double-digits. Braithwaite scored 12 of his 25 points in the third quarter, Tarke, the team's leading scorer on the season, added nine of his 15 in the second half, and, overall, Gaithersburg's shooting percentage rose 12 percent while Clarksburg's dropped seven in the second-half surge.
“We just like to get up and down the court, run and wear teams down,” Sheahin said. “I think that's kind of what happened tonight. It was even, both teams are pretty even, they're well-coached, they have a great program, but when it came down to the second half, we knew we had the horses.”
Clarksburg finished off an incredibly difficult week in which it matched up with three then-undefeated teams — James H. Blake (which lost to Poolesville, 44-43, on Friday), Richard Montgomery and Gaithersburg — in a span of five days.
Though Kissal said he “would practice right now” if he could, a notion his players were clamoring for as well, the Coyotes get a seven-day rest before hosting a holiday tournament.
“We just got to be better,” Kissal said. “This is all us, it's all us. In tough moments, we revert to bad habits. If we can't change those habits in those biggest moments, this is what's going to happen. We just got to be better.”
Gaithersburg 83, Clarksburg 59
Gaithersburg 16 23 21 23 — 83
Clarksburg 14 20 16 9 — 59
Gaithersburg (5-0): Geron Braithwaite 25, Anthony Tarke 15, Aaron King 13, Dion Etheridge 12, Tyrik Etheridge 8, Avery Taylor 5, Zack Coalman 3, Nyrion Turner 2.
Clarksburg (3-2): Calob Carter 16, DJ Singleton 12, Josh Hardy 7, Andrew Kostecka 6, Austin Duffy 4, Divine Green 4, Malik Smith 3, Number 2 (roster incomplete) 3, Xavier Sewell 2, Sheck Doukoure 2.