Potomac (Va.) had struggled so much in the third quarters of games that during practice Coach Keith Honore would have the Panthers go hard for 10 minutes, then stop and do nothing for 10 minutes to try to condition them to resuming play at a high level after a break.
“They stood around for 10 minutes in practice and all of a sudden they had to try to crank it back up again and go as hard as they did in the first 10 minutes,” said Honore, whose team led Gar-Field by 10 at the half of a 42-41 loss Dec. 11. “It’s more mental than physical, especially when you’re winning.”
The Panthers (11-5, 6-1) have led at the half in four of their five losses. Against Gar-Field on Friday, they trailed by 14 in the first half. Junior forward Randy Haynes scored 23 of his season-high 29 points in the second half to help nuzzle the Panthers into a first-place tie in the loss column with Gar-Field in the Virginia AAA Cardinal District.
“Randy’s kind of taken the team on his shoulders and he understands he’s the leader of this group,” Honore said. “We told him [at halftime] that he needs to go North and South more than East and West.”
In two games guarding Gar-Field outside threat Zach Fong, a Navy recruit, Potomac senior guard Maalik Howard has held Fong to 16 total points and two three-pointers. The game prior to facing Potomac, Fong had nailed eight three-pointers in a 37-point outburst against Woodbridge.
Potomac’s losses have been at home to No. 2 O’Connell (15-3); at Gar-Field (15-2); at Henrico (13-2), the second-ranked team in the Richmond Times-Dispatch; at Highland Springs (8-6) and at Patrick Henry (14-2), the top-ranked team in the Roanoke area.
“We’ve been in some really, really adverse situations, and that’s by design,” Honore said. “With this team, we really needed to face some challenges and adverse situations to understand that, if we’re fortunate enough to play in late February and early March, those games would prepare us for that.”