Potomac Falls 53, Stone Bridge 40

Potomac Falls Coach Jeff Hawes was not happy to see his typically strong defensive team relax and give up 14 first-quarter points to Stone Bridge on Tuesday night. That was nearly twice what the Panthers' six previous opponents had averaged in the first eight minutes.

After Stone Bridge added 12 in the second quarter, Hawes challenged his players to hold the Bulldogs to fewer than 10 in the third quarter.

"He told us that if we do that, we'll go out of here with a win," junior forward Mike Gitzen said.

Sure enough, the Panthers held Stone Bridge to five points in the third quarter and took control for a 53-40 victory in a AA Dulles District game. One half of strong shooting and offensive execution from Stone Bridge was undone after halftime, thanks to the defense of the Panthers (6-1, 2-0), off to the best start in the program's six seasons.

In the second half, Potomac Falls held Stone Bridge (1-4, 0-2) to four field goals and 14 points. The Bulldogs couldn't be blamed for poor shooting on each trip downcourt because there were many times when they couldn't even make it to the other end or put themselves in position for an open shot.

Over the past few years, Potomac Falls has won several games with its defense and overall effort in compensating for lack of a dominant scorer. The Panthers have no primary go-to player this year but have learned how to win without one.

"They looked like they continued to work hard, and our kids didn't respond with the same kind of effort," Stone Bridge Coach Mark Alexander said.

Senior forward Adam Hendricks led three Panthers in double figures with 15 points, many a result of on his strong work on the offensive glass. Gitzen added 14, and junior guard John Veselick had 11.

Gitzen's bigger contribution, however, came defensively against Stone Bridge senior sharpshooter Eric Pearson. After scoring 10 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes, Pearson was held scoreless on two attempts the rest of the half and did not score again until the Panthers's lead was in double figures.

Gitzen was told to forget about helping on team defense for the last three quarters and simply shadow Pearson.

"You can't leave [Pearson] because he'll go get a shot, and he only needs a second or two to get one off," Gitzen said.

Warren Bolden grabs the ball above the Bulldogs' Derrick Navas as the Panthers enjoy their best start in six seasons.Potomac Falls's John Veselick faces major resistance from Ben Hoisington (44). Noah Kapp splits defenders Sean Williams, left, and Ben Hoisington as the Panthers soar to 6-1.