Longtime Magruder Coach Dan Harwood is shown during a February 13 game against Paint Branch. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Last season, the Magruder boys’ basketball team lost a total of three games — one of them in the Maryland 4A state championship — by a combined 13 points.

Three games into this season, short their top six scorers from the state runner-up squad, the Colonels had lost three games by a combined 60 points. For Montgomery County staple and longtime Magruder Coach Dan Harwood, that translated to frequent hair tearing, vigorous bench pacing, and high-decibel cross-court instructing early in the season.

“I’m not always the most patient person,” Harwood said with a laugh. “I’m really working on it. I’ve only been coaching 32 years and a head coach for 28 years so I’m still working on getting better, being more patient, and remaining positive through our mistakes. Sometimes I’m successful with it, sometimes I’m not.”

Despite returning just two players — junior forward Joe Hugley and senior forward Josiah Jones — with any notable varsity experience, Harwood didn’t have to wait long to see a turnaround materialize. Magruder (8-6, 6-1 Montgomery County 4A West) has won eight of its last 11 games and is a game behind Gaithersburg in the Montgomery 4A West division.

“I coached more in three weeks of this season than I coached probably the past three years,” Harwood said. “It’s been hard, teaching the kids we like to play at Magruder: giving that constant effort and with ball movement, it just doesn’t come overnight. But I’m excited because we’re making progress.”

Ball movement is the staple of Harwood’s approach, one that he says needs chemistry, trust and experience to translate to winning basketball. Coming into the season, his team lacked all three. Lately, he’s seen his offense round into pass-heavy form, particularly in the Colonels’ 71-58 win over Wootton on Friday night in which they tallied 19 assists on 26 baskets.

“When we play as a team and hit the open man, hit the hot man, that’s when we win. The ball movement’s gotten a lot better,” said the 6-foot-6 Hugley, an emerging nightly double-double threat. “Ball movement’s just chemistry, and we’re starting to come together better and get to know [our] roles.”

When the Colonels make the extra pass as Harwood hopes, Hugley said, the difference in scoring potential between this season’s personnel and last year’s diminishes.

“Anybody on our team can score 20 a night,” Hugley said. “Scoring’s not a problem because if you move the ball well, the ball will find the open man, and since anyone on our team can score, it doesn’t matter who has the ball.”

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