G.J. Kissal spent the past five seasons building the program at Rockville, and he had no plans to leave until the job at Clarksburg popped open. In the seven-year-old Montgomery County public school, the veteran coach saw untapped potential, and on Wednesday night, the Coyotes provided a glimpse of that talent in a 72-68 upset win over defending Maryland 4A champ Magruder.
The Coyotes (7-8) stumbled out of the gate with eight losses in their first 12 games adapting to Kissal’s style, but they have now won three straight. Four players hit double figures in the latest comeback victory, including two juniors, Josh Hardy and D.J. Singleton, that Kissal believes have Division I talent.
“We were like, ‘Finally, it’s clicking,’ ” said Hardy, a 6-foot-4 forward who paced the scoring against Magruder with 16 points despite foul trouble. “I feel like now it’s just building our confidence to put Clarksburg on the map and show what we really are.”
No. 7 Magruder — which went unbeaten against public school competition last season — led by as many as 12 points in the first half and seven in the fourth quarter, but Singleton (12 points) nailed back-to-back three-pointers down the stretch and senior Gary Rich made all six of his free throws late to seal the Clarksburg victory.
Kissal hopes a strong finish to the season for the team will provide a recruiting boost for Hardy and Singleton. Both players currently claim interest from Towson, VCU and Radford, and the pair took an unofficial visit to Towson last Wednesday night to watch the Tigers fall to George Mason.
Hardy has been one of the county’s top scorers the past two seasons, a rugged player around the basket with a high motor. He scored a career-high 34 points in an early season upset against Sherwood.
When Kissal took over, he began working right away to help Hardy fine-tune his outside shot. The forward made his first career three-pointer on Dec. 28 against Seneca Valley, and Kissal said Hardy has slowly become more willing to line up a mid-range shot instead of slashing to the hoop to get his points.
“His mechanics are good,” Kissal said. “It’s just a confidence thing.”
Singleton, a 6-foot guard who plays with D.C. Assault on the AAU circuit, has been adjusting to more time at the point this season and will likely have to show he can run an offense to earn a shot at the next level.
He said he’s enjoyed the challenge of handling the ball more often.
“I have to keep the team settled in clutch times,” Singleton said. “I know that if I mess up then we won’t be able to get into the offense.”
Clarksburg will be back on the court Friday night for a nonleague contest at Montgomery 4A South champ Churchill (13-3), and Kissal knows the importance of putting together another strong effort.
“This [Magruder] win isn’t as sweet if we go over there [tonight] and get smacked in the mouth,” Kissal said.