Churchill boys' basketball coach Mike Dichov had to admit he thought his Bulldogs would have a better season. Heading into Tuesday's game with Blair (results were not available when this edition went to press), Churchill was 3-12 and had lost six in a row.

"I would say it's kind of a promise unfulfilled," Dichov said. "We had high hopes, and we thought we'd make a break through. We're still waiting for that game to get us kick-started for the playoffs."

One reason for optimism, however, is Churchill's youth, specifically sophomore Jerome Dyson. The 6-foot-1 small forward leads the team with 19.8 points per game

"He's been our go-to guy," said Dichov. "But as with all sophomores, he's up and down."

Dyson's games against Sherwood are a case in point. The first time Churchill faced the Warriors on Jan. 4, Dyson poured in a career-high 39 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 91-76 upset victory.

On Monday night, in the rematch, a 79-53 loss, Dyson was held to 11.

Dyson played on the Bulldogs' junior varsity last season, but there was no question he would move up this year.

"You could see that he had special talent," Dichov said. "He's going to get even better. He has to improve in a couple areas {ndash} the defensive end and his decision-making with the ball. But he does have the talent, you can see that."

Rahimi Red Hot

Since dropping a career-high 32 points to lead Walter Johnson to a 57-56 victory over Churchill, senior guard Pooyan Rahimi has stayed hot.

In the Wildcats' following game against Wheaton last week, Rahimi scored 27 points in a 75-65 victory.

On Monday, he had 23 as Walter Johnson defeated Richard Montgomery, 57-45. Rahimi hit 15 three-pointers in those three games.

Walter Johnson has been similarly hot. Heading into Tuesday night's game against Paint Branch, the Wildcats had won four in a row on the heels of a six-game losing streak to creep within two games of .500.

Top Spot

Magruder seems to have secured a top-four spot in the Class 4A West Region. Heading into Tuesday night's game against Richard Montgomery, the Colonels were 15-3 with five straight victories.

Also helping the Colonels' cause is that two of their three losses came in tournaments. Those games will not count toward the postseason standings. Magruder also finishes with three teams with losing records.

Three Team Race

As the Montgomery County girls' basketball season enters its final two weeks, the balance of power has become exceedingly clear.

Through this point in the season, No. 6 Churchill (15-2), No. 8 Damascus and No. 12 Paint Branch have dominated the rest of county competition. Besides a Springbrook win over Churchill before Christmas, no other county team has beaten any of the top three schools -- few have even come close.

Paint Branch emphasized the dispairty with a decisive, 64-28, home victory over Magruder on Monday night. The Colonels entered the non-league game tied for second in the 4A/3A West Division.

But Paint Branch (14-4), with its young but talented squad, allowed Magruder to score only 14 points in each half of the game. Paint Branch is second in the 4A/3A East Division, with two of its losses coming against Churchill and at an elite tournament in New Jersey.

Damascus (17-1) and defending 4A champion Churchill breezed just as easily Monday night, defeating their opponents by margins of 34 and 33 points, respectively.

Special correspondent Sean P. Flynn contributed to this report.

Magruder's Pedro Argueta, right, has helped Magruder to five straight wins.Damascus's Chrissy Phelps shoots over Paint Branch's Elise Conway during a loss this season.