The Paint Branch girls basketball team overcame a slow start and used stingy defense to defeat Rockville, 63-50, yesterday in Burtonsville. Paint Branch Coach Heather Podosek said the 10th-ranked Panthers (11-0) are off to their best start since 1980, when they won the Maryland state title.

But the fast start has come despite inconsistent shooting, Podosek said. In the first half yesterday, the Panthers made only 7 of 40 field goal attempts (18 percent).

"In basketball you expect that shooters will go into a slump," Podosek said. "Our problem is that it seems everyone is in a slump. But we keep giving them positive reminders about shooting and try to get them to focus on working on their form. Basically we have been winning with defense and I have been pleased with that."

Rockville (6-4) took a 4-2 lead following a field goal by Lauren Masser with 5 minutes 20 seconds left in the first quarter. But Paint Branch went on a 16-7 run over a 10-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters to take an 18-11 lead, capped by a free throw by junior Lindsay Bowen with 3:04 left in the half.

The Panthers held Rockville to 6-of-23 shooting (23 percent) in the first half. For the game, Paint Branch forced 31 turnovers, most of which were caused by its full-court pressure defense.

"Everyone is working hard on offense and defense," said Panthers junior forward Rochelle Coleman, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. "We are playing great team defense. On our shooting, Coach kept telling us we need to relax before we shoot. In the second half, we did that."

Paint Branch made four of its first six field goal attempts in the second half. But Rockville made five of its first seven and eventually cut the deficit to 32-30 following a basket by sophomore Rachel Bailey with 5:12 left in the third quarter.

But the Panthers responded with a 10-2 run, including five points from Coleman and three from Bowen, to take a 42-32 lead with 2:52 left in the quarter.

The Panthers were led by sophomore guard Krystle Harrington, who had a game-high 14 points. In all, eight players scored for Paint Branch.

Rockville was led by Masser, who had 13 points. Audra Poulin and Tricia Murphy added 10 points each for the Rams.

While Rockville was disappointed with the outcome, Murphy, a junior forward who averages a team-high 17 points, said the team was not discouraged.

"We were 1-21 in my freshman year and 9-12 last year," Murphy said. "We would have gotten killed by Paint Branch then. But today we were able to play with them and stick close. We knew we would have our hands full, but they did not walk all over us."