Behind a hustling, full-court trapping defense, Potomac forced 19 first-half turnovers and relaxed its onslaught only slightly the rest of the way in coasting to an 88-64 Prince George's 3A/2A victory over Surrattsville before a boisterous game-bell crowd yesterday at Potomac.
Surrattsville came out from its locker room for the second half looking very much like a team ready to concede defeat to a sixth-ranked Potomac squad that led 48-14. "We were nervous," said Hornets guard Charles Washington about the seemingly insurmountable comeback task.
"We didn't want to relax; we wanted to beat them real bad," said Braves guard Robert Garner, who finished with a game-high 23 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. "They were a real good team, and on paper they were real big. They wanted to come in here and beat us, so we got real hyped for the game and just wanted to blow them out."
The Braves fans had much to cheer about in the opening minutes, as Potomac (3-0, 3-0) emphatically applied its defensive pressure, creating four turnovers to move out to a 20-5 cushion. And judging by the way the Hornets (3-1, 2-1) wilted before the relentless attack, it seemed like they were in for a dejected afternoon.
Potomac "is real good, but we came out and I don't think we were mentally prepared because of this crowd and playing with no support," said Surrattsville Coach Jim Butler. "It's difficult for young kids to play in a situation like that."
Potomac, with Patrick Evans (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Shannon Mason (13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals) and Ellis Jones (14 points) joining University of Texas-bound Garner as double-figure scorers, easily could have reached the century mark had it not been for 16-of-34 free throw shooting. But even though the Braves kept missing from the line, the Hornets didn't have enough vigor to put together a serious run.
"We backed off our pressure," said Potomac Coach Taft Hickman. "We didn't want to keep our aggressive pressure on and that kind of took us away, because that's how we play and it slowed us down offensively.
"We're not shooting free throws real well. We practice them well."
Few teams in the area play defense as relentlessly as Potomac does, which down the stretch might enable the Braves to contend for their second state title in three years.
"We have a deep squad," said Hickman. "We can play 10 or 12 players and we can keep the pressure on. As long as we don't get into foul trouble, we're going to press every game."