When it comes to defense, Clarksburg Coach G.J. Kissal only knows one way to play: man-to-man.
“We’re not in the mind-set of ‘if they beat us, we’ve got to play zone,’ ” Kissal explained after his team’s 55-52 upset win over No. 20 Springbrook on Friday night. “It’s don’t get beat. Take a charge. Box out.”
The Coyotes’ physical, fearless man-to-man defense nullified Springbrook’s height advantage and kept the Blue Devils scoreless through the game’s first five minutes, sparking three quarters of a near-constant double-digit lead for Clarksburg.
By the end of the third quarter, the Blue Devils had scored 28 points; 17 had come from standout senior Andrew Robinson, who evaded the pressure or endured it. Robinson completed two four-point plays to keep his team within striking distance.
Springbrook (9-2, 4-0 Montgomery 4A East) intensified its full-court pressure in the fourth, rallying thanks to some well-timed steals and missed Coyote free throws. But even when the bounces set up the Blue Devils for two would-be game-tying possessions late, the perpetually active Coyote hands and feet flustered Springbrook both times. On the second occasion, with fewer than seven seconds remaining, Clarksburg (9-3, 3-2 Montgomery 4A West) poked the ball loose and it trickled to Coyotes guard Xavier Sewell, who capped his own stellar defensive evening with a win-sealing, rim-rocking slam as time expired.
“That felt really good. I just wanted to end it with a bang,” Sewell said. “Coming in it, we knew they were really big, so it was all about playing defense, getting in their face and boxing out, too.”
Sewell finished with 12 points, part of an evenly spread scoring attack. Fellow guard Josh Hardy also had 12 points, and Caleb Carter — who earned oohs and aahs with a crossover that tripped up his defender twice — contributed nine, including crucial late free throws that held off Springbrook’s fourth-quarter charge.
“That’s just a seasoned, veteran, great, great, great program,” Kissal said of Springbrook’s late life. “It’s been there before, it knows how to play this type of game. They’re still favorites.”
Clarksburg’s pressure frustrated Springbrook into its first loss to a Montgomery County public school team, reasserting the Coyotes’ spot among the county’s most dangerous teams after a few midseason stumbles. So after 31 minutes 57 seconds of defensive discipline, Kissal didn’t mind his team clinching its upset with a little offensive flourish.
“[Sewell] said to me after ‘Should I have pulled that ball out?’ ” Kissal said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Ehh, I think that was pretty good.’ ”