Damascus features the top three scorers in the Montgomery County 3A/2A/1A, but that didn’t matter much two weeks ago on a trip up north. It was a rare scheduling decision for longtime head coach Steve Pisarski to take his team to Pennsylvania and Ohio for two games in two days — in the middle of the season nonetheless – and the then-undefeated Swarmin’ Hornets were exposed in double-figure losses to Bishop Canevin (Pa.) and Hiland (Ohio).
The culprit in the setbacks was the absence of a shot clock. Damascus didn’t only lose possessions on the offensive end, limiting touches for the trio of Kelli Prange (14.1), Jenna Kaufman (10.5) and Lauren Green (10.4) – but for the first time all season, Damascus was forced to defend for long stretches.
“We’ve been playing weaker teams throughout the whole season,” said Prange, whose team only scored 30 points in the loss to Hiland. “It was a learning experience for all of us. . . and we’re going to have the shot clock for the playoffs and everything.”
Even though Damascus (13-2, 7-0 Mongtomery 3A/2A/1A) will be able to work the clock to its advantage the rest of the winter, Pisarski doesn’t want his team to be defined by it. And Prange believes her team will be able to win down the stretch with or without it. The Swarmin’ Hornets returned home last week and took their frustration out on Einstein in a 73-12 victory – a tune-up for this week’s three-game road swing at Rockville, Wheaton and a dangerous Watkins Mill.
Then comes Poolesville (10-3, 7-1) on Feb. 8, which will likely be the toughest league game of the season for both teams. Poolesville is a spitting-image of a methodical, balanced offensive team – it doesn’t have a scorer posting in double-figures this season – and the Falcons have shown a penchant for limiting their opponent’s offensively. They’ve allowed just 25.4 points per game in five straight wins.
“Poolesville’s very good,” Pisarski said. “I expect all of those games to be challenges.”
Pisarski has been stressing fast starts to his team, building leads that force the other team to surrender its use of the shot clock. But he also is preparing his team to respond more efficiently should it find itself trailing. Against Bishop Canevin and Hiland, Damascus fell behind in the fourth quarter in each game, something it hasn’t experienced all season long, which caused anxiety and poor decisions on the offensive end.
Prange, at 6-foot-4, is still arguably the most dominant player in Montgomery County, and she said her team has been installing new presses in the wake of the pressure it faced in Pennsylvania and Ohio. That will help create more possessions for three of the top scorers in the division, and ultimately, will help the Swarmin’ Hornets avoid being held hostage by the shot clock, she said.
“That is what is great about our team,” Prange said. “You never know who is going to show up.”