With a 67-60 victory over then-No. 4 Damascus last Friday, the Paint Branch Panthers made a statement to the rest of Montgomery County that they are still around as contenders despite a young team.

The Panthers have won five straight games since a Jan. 2 loss to Churchill. The No. 6 Bulldogs travel to Burtonsville on Friday.

Third-team All-Met Krystle Harrington graduated last year, and the Panthers returned only three seniors. But led by senior Robin Kantin (16.6 points per game), Paint Branch (9-3) gets more than eight points per game from three sophomores -- forward Ashley Alexander, center Amy Dodd and guard Rahne Jones -- while junior point guard Elise Conway runs the offense.

"I told this team at the beginning of the year that the only thing they lacked was experience, but now they've got 13 games under their belt," Coach Heather Podosek said after the exciting win. "They're young, but we've got a lot of hard-working players with talent. Robin has been the key -- she learned to play from the state championship team."

Colonels Run Deep

A talented Magruder team has come together to be one of Montgomery County's top teams, opening the season with 11 wins in 13 games.

The Colonels (12-1, 7-1 in the Montgomery 4A/3A West) have no players averaging more than 11 points, but all five starters and a deep bench have contributed to a strong start. The Colonels face Damascus tomorrow in a re-match of a 43-37 Dec. 19 loss.

"We were leading and in control for three of four quarters," Coach Pam Sinclair Dean said. "But we made some mistakes and came back. Our girls are looking at it as a good test."

Seniors Ashley Cymblor (10.6 points per game), Lauren Brogden (9.4) and Megan Barbieri (6.9) have been important to the success of the team, which was 14-10 last season. But freshman Taylor Herrgott has been the key addition, leading the team in scoring and rebounding (11.4 points and 10 rebounds per game).

"Taylor is adjusting better than I expected," Coach Pam Sinclair Dean said. "We don't have any stars, but we have good players at each position, and they've gelled very well."

Paint Branch senior guard Robin Kantin drives to the basket during the Panthers' fifth straight win, 67-60, over Damascus on Jan. 17.