Potomac Falls High School boys basketball coach Jeff Hawes had waited a long time for this day. He trudged through the team's first two seasons, going 7-37 as a core of nine players learned the game and teamwork on junior varsity preparing for this, their junior year, to step up.

So Hawes admittedly felt awkward when his Panthers pressed Warren County into submission in a 65-24 victory Friday night in their home opener. Victories of this sort were foreign to his program--but, nevertheless, a welcome change.

"Since I've had this job, I've been looking forward to this year to get the program going," Hawes said. "It's no accident things are working out like this."

Hawes was quick to note that for the first time in the school's brief history, Potomac Falls (1-1 Northwestern District, 2-1 overall) has a winning record. That can be directly attributed to the Panthers' maturity this year, both physically and mentally. Their upper-body strength and communication on the court gave them a clear advantage against an over-matched and intimidated Warren County team.

"This was the best offseason we've had since I've been here," Hawes said. "They did a good job getting into the weight room and playing together."

The leader of the Panthers' junior class is 5-foot-6 spark-plug point guard DeMario McClearry, who led them Friday night with 15 points and keyed the press with seven steals. It wasn't until late in the first quarter that Potomac Falls began trapping Warren County in the back court. The Panthers held a slim, 11-7 lead at that point because they ignored their defense, and the Wildcats were able to get into the front court uncontested.

"It was our first home game, and we wanted to blow them out of the building right away," McClearry said. "We were just too excited at the start.

"But then we started pressing them, and it seemed like they just gave us the ball. So Coach said to keep pressing."

And they did, throughout the second quarter, during which the Panthers put away the game on the strength of 14 turnovers (all but three of the Wildcats' possessions). They held Warren County to just two points in the quarter to take a 29-9 lead at halftime.

The lead snowballed in the second half as the early turnovers seemed to make Warren County hesitant with every dribble and pass. For the game, the Wildcats committed 37 turnovers, many of which were caused by their own uneasiness with the ball.

Warren County (0-3, 0-1)--Moose 1 0-0 2, Logan 1 1-1 3, Disch 1 0-0 2, Wood 1 0-0 2, Henline 1 0-0 3, Carter 1 1-2 3, Anderson 3 0-0 7, McComas 0 1-2 1, Bukva 0 1-2 1. Totals: 9 4-7 24.

Potomac Falls (2-1, 1-1)--McClearry 7 0-1 15, Embrey 3 0-0 6, Duff 4 3-4 11, Lutman 4 2-2 11, Bouman 2 0-0 4, Pittman 0 2-5 2, Treon 0 1-2 1, Almond 1 3-4 5, Dowdle 2 0-1 5, Farwell 1 0-1 2, White 1 1-3 3. Totals: 25 12-23 65.

Halftime: Potomac Falls, 29-9.

Three-point goals: Warren County 2 (Henline, Anderson). Potomac Falls 3 (McClearry, Lutman, Dowdle).

CAPTION: Josh Logan hits the deck as Ian Duff drives for Potomac Falls, which was 7-37 combined over tha last two seasons.