Boys’ basketball: For Clarksburg, a new method to measure success


An altered focus on defensive efficiency has helped Clarksburg soar up the Montgomery 4A West standings this winter. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

With an 82-65 win over Northwest last week — its 15th victory of the season — the Clarksburg boys’ basketball team broke the school record for wins in a season. Clarksburg opened in 2006, and no boys’ basketball team has lost fewer than 10 games in a season since. This year’s Coyotes (15-4, 7-3 Montgomery County 4A West) cannot not lose more than seven.

The key to Clarksburg’s 2013-14 turnaround is a staple of many successful high school teams, but not many on the hardwood: a baseball pitch-count clicker.

Clarksburg Coach G.J. Kissal heard that San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich emphasized points per possession in assessing the play of his team’s defense, rather than other defensive categories like total points allowed. Given his team’s athleticism and the unpredictability of Montgomery County competition each night, Kissal believed points per game wasn’t a helpful statistic. So he bought two pitch counters — one to track his team’s points scored per offensive possession, one to track his team’s points allowed per defensive possession — and charged two assistants with tracking the stat.

“The stats could not be clearer,” Kissal said. “In the games we have lost, we have given up more than .85 points per possession. In every other game, we’re at .75 or below.”

Clarksburg’s biggest loss of the season was an 83-59 blowout against Gaithersburg in late December. The Coyotes yielded 1.02 points per possession to the Trojans in that game, reinforcing Kissal’s point to a team he says has been receptive to the unorthodox emphasis.


Clarksburg guard Josh Hardy (0), pictured during a Jan. 17 win against Springbrook, is one of the Coyotes’ leading scorers during their breakout campaign. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

“Now I can show them: if you play ‘D’, you win. Period,” Kissal said. “If you get stops, you’ll win, because you’re good enough offensively.”

Leading scorers Josh Hardy (10.8 points per game) and Xavier Sewell (14.7) agree that the focus on each possession bolsters the Coyotes’ defensive effort.

“Whenever we hold teams under that number of points per possession, we should come out with the win,” Hardy said. “That’s the point of emphasis when we get into close games. . . . I think our athleticism and our drive to get stops each time down the floor really helps us.”

The Coyotes have produced plenty of offense to back the defensive effort, and are averaging 62.1 points per game, third in Montgomery County. Most of that offense starts with explosive guards Sewell and Hardy. The latter made school history of his own against Northwest, setting a school record for career points (he now has 879). While he admitted he’s “ecstatic” about the accomplishment, Hardy said the single-season win total is just a step on the way to bigger things for he and his teammates.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

“I’m not satisfied with it. We should do the things that we’re doing,” Hardy said. “We’re not impressed with anything that’s going on. I won’t be satisfied or happy at least until we got to regionals. But hopefully beyond that and to a state championship.”

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