In the raggedy world of summer league basketball, sometimes it's not so much who shows up on the court but simply who shows up at the gym, particularly on a holiday weekend.
Potomac found itself plenty short-handed at home Sunday in a 62-47 loss to Hayfield in the Metro South championship when Deante Steele and five players whom most outside the Panther program have never heard of could not keep pace with the deeper, taller Hawks.
Potomac played with no substitutes for much of the game after Steele sprained an ankle with more than 15 minutes to play in the first 20-minute half, and did not return until six minutes into the second half.
Despite the lack of bodies at times this summer, Panthers Coach Kendall Hayes has seen how enthusiastic some of the younger players are about easing into more prominent roles on a team that has reached eight of the past 11 Virginia AAA tournaments. The oldest Potomac players on the floor Sunday were rising juniors.
"You've got to have some aggressiveness and you have to have the willingness to compete, and they have that," Hayes said. "As long as they want to learn and get better, then we'll be fine. You can be talented, and if you don't have any aggressiveness and the desire, then it really doesn't matter. They've got those two components, which I'm happy about."
Potomac, which beat Gar-Field in the semifinals, had an early three-point lead before Steele went out. Hayfield, a winner over top seed West Potomac in the semis, then rattled off seven unanswered points to start a 12-2 run and never trailed thereafter, although the Panthers did tie the game late in the first half on a three-pointer by rising sophomore Mulku Kalokoh (team-high 18 points).
The Hawks, up seven at the break, soon opened a comfortable lead that swelled to 19 points. Antonio Hayman led Hayfield with 17 points. Raphael Amey added 12 for Potomac.
One continuing bright spot for Potomac this summer has been the development of 6-foot-5 post player Rian McHenry, a rising junior who had eight points in the championship and about twice that many rebounds.
The Panthers, never short on guards, are hoping McHenry can provide an inside presence the team often seems to lack in the winter.
"I think he's going to be one heck of a rebounder," Potomac summer league coach Chip Lozinak said. "He has excellent hands for a big man. When he gets his hands on the ball, it's really tough to get it away from him. . . . You can't teach great hands."
Rising senior guard Eric Hayes sat on the bench in street clothes, resting a hip he injured in the second-to-last day of the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp in Richmond. Hayes was hoping to recover in time to participate in Nike camp this week in Indianapolis.
The Maryland-bound Hayes is encouraged by what he has seen this summer from the players who might slide into the four empty spots in the starting lineup, many of whom were not on hand Sunday, such as T.J. Sampson and Javon Brunson.
"I think we have a lot of potential to be pretty good," the younger Hayes said. "We'll be small and real quick, like always, but our big man Rian is improving a lot. . . . If he can catch and finish and rebound, that's what we're looking for."
Potomac continues to play in the Sleepy Thompson League this week.