Basketball practice typically includes the use of a, well, basketball. But for three days during finals week just over a week ago, the Gaithersburg High School girls’ basketball team did not dribble, shoot or pass at all.
“For three days we didn’t touch a single basketball,” Trojans coach Adrian McDaniel said. “We worked on conditioning, we got in the weight room. We got in basketball shape.”
Gaithersburg had only seven players healthy in preseason, eight by the season opener and it took a while for the Trojans to work themselves back into basketball conditioning. But after being run over by Col. Zadok Magruder in a 22-point loss Jan. 4, Gaithersburg’s newfound condition helped the Trojans keep with the Colonels’ fast-paced game in Tuesday’s 53-43 home win over its division foe. The Trojans (8-4, 5-1 Montgomery 4A West) have now won eight of their past 10 games after an 0-2 start. Magruder (9-5, 4-3) has now lost two of its last four after a 3-0 start.
This time it was Gaithersburg that set the tempo early. Led by senior Janessa Fauntroy (20 points), Gaithersburg jumped to a 10-0 midway through the first quarter. Magruder turned the ball over on its first four possessions without even taking a shot.
“[The fast start] was really important, last time we didn’t come out with as much intensity,” Gaithersburg senior Danielle Rojas (seven) said. “We focused a lot on defense and stopping the run game, that’s how they beat us last time.”
Within two minutes Magruder cut Gaithersburg’s lead in half late in the first quarter, but Gaithersburg bounced back to close out the period ahead, 14-17. The Trojans really dug in during the second quarter, which Megan Payne kicked off with a quick 3-pointer. Gaithersburg pulled ahead by 13 points to lead, 30-17, at halftime. The Colonels were creating some scoring chances but struggled to convert in the paint.
Magruder did, however, do a good job of getting to the free throw line, which helped at least stay within striking distance. Magruder was sent to the line 33 times Tuesday; 10 of its first-half points came from the charity stripe. With Gaithersburg ahead by 20 points, 43-23, at the end of the third quarter, it was free throw shooting that helped Magruder claw itself back again. The Colonels shot 13 for 16 from the foul line in the second half to cut Gaithersburg’s lead to 10 points with just under five minutes left in regulation.
“We weren’t moving our feet [on defense],” McDaniel said of the foul trouble. “When you get a team down, you have to keep them down.”
Though Fauntroy led Gaithersburg in scoring Tuesday night, the win was a total team effort. The Trojans’ go-to player has settled into her role as such, McDaniel said, and has become more adept at knowing when to make her own move and when to find her teammates. Five players scored six points or more for Gaithersburg. Rojas and Celina Herndon scored 10; Christine Mabry added six on two timely 3-pointers.
Magruder’s Hannah Barr scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in the second half.
“People called me after [our first game against Magruder] and I told them to watch out, that Magruder is a good team,” McDaniel said. “They beat the bricks off us the first time but [Tuesday] we played like we know how. I knew if we could set the tempo, we’d be OK.”
Gaithersburg 53, Col. Zadok Magruder 43
Magruder 7 10 6 20 — 43
Gaithersburg 14 16 13 10 — 53
Magruder (9-5) — Hannah Barr 17, Janel Brown 8, Adjowa Pinkrah 7.
Gaithersburg (8-4) — Janess Fauntroy 20, Danielle Rojas 7, Celina Herndon 7, Megan Payne 6, Christine Mabry 6, Dejanai Lowe-Hilliard 4.