The Richard Montgomery High School boys’ basketball didn’t expect its opponents to have much respect for them early this winter. After all, the Rockets returned only one starter from a team that couldn’t post a winning record behind the efforts of the county’s leading scorer a year ago. Richard Montgomery hasn’t eclipsed the .500 mark since 2009-10, but seven teams have learned their lesson to start 2013-14.
Richard Montgomery’s (7-2) fast start before the holiday break is just three wins away from last year’s overall total and while it seems like this level of success might be a new concept to anyone that’s been in the program in recent years, many of the current Rockets don’t actually know anything other than winning. Though Richard Montgomery’s varsity team hit a rough patch the past few years — the Rockets had only one losing season from 2005 to 2010 — the junior varsity team has been among the county’s best. Richard Montgomery’s junior varsity team lost only one game last winter and has dropped very few in general the last three years.
“This generation of RM basketball doesn’t know anything but winning,” second-year coach David Breslaw said. “They’ve done nothing but be successful all their games. They can’t conceive of us having a losing team. The majority of their time at RM has been mostly winning so they don’t necessarily see this as us putting RM back on the map, it’s just business as usual. It’s nice to have that.”
The rigors of varsity basketball are an entirely different ballgame — Breslaw said the Rockets have quickly learned to up the intensity in practice — but four of Richard Montgomery’s top six scorers are part of a junior class that has been successful together both for the Rockets’ junior varsity and Rockville Stars AAU team and they’ve immediately meshed well with a relatively small but talented senior class.
Richard Montgomery was largely a one-man show last winter. Justin Senou led the Rockets in points per game (19.9), assists (4.5) and steals (2.5) and finished second with 6.5 rebounds per game. This year they have a new look both literally and figuratively.
“Last year our best chance was using our athleticism and pressing the entire game,” Breslaw said. “We don’t press as much this year. We had one reliable scorer, it’s a completely different team, we’re not pressing all game, we’re slowing the game down.”
Rather than run the floor the Rockets are propelled by their ability to share responsibilities. Junior guard Renzo Farfan, who said playing quarterback in the fall helped him feel more comfortable with his more prominent role on the basketball court this winter, is technically the go-to scorer with his team-high 13.5 points. But there are six players with six or more points per game, including senior Noah White (11.7), who shot 7-for-7 from behind the 3-point line and scored the game-winner in Friday’s 62-59 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
“We track how many passes we make per possession and how many other teams make and on average most teams pass the ball around four passes per possession,” Breslaw said. “The main thing is keeping other teams from scoring. Our goal is to maintain control of the ball. We like to average five or six passes per possession. If we do that, we’re controlling the ball two thirds of the game.”
Leading the Rockets in the back court is senior PJ Glasser who 6-foot-5 junior center David Bottenberg said has a knack for finding his teammates in open spaces and is a fantastic facilitator. The Rockets’ ability to move the ball around the floor also opens up space for Bottenberg and Nick Jackson (6-5) inside. Both also have high field goal percentages, Breslaw said.
Though the early success has not come as a surprise to those within the program, Glasser, Farfan and White agreed that Richard Montgomery cannot get complacent with early season success as it heads into the heart of its season and Montgomery 4A South Division play.
“This is a big time to see where we are as a team, it’s important for us to keep improving on things we need to improve on and build for playoffs,” Glasser said. “We want to win every game but it’s all about playoffs and being the best team we can be.”