Churchill girls’ basketball Coach Kate Blanken faced an unfamiliar situation as the final minutes were winding down Wednesday night at Paint Branch. The Bulldogs entered on a run of dominance that had them beating opponents by nearly 45 points per game. That allowed Blanken to play everyone on the roster, with starters usually watching by the fourth quarter.
But on the road against a strong Montgomery County team, Blanken required her top players to be on the court until the end — and they were up to the task in a 68-51 win over the Panthers.
Three players scored in double figures for No. 14 Churchill (9-0), which displayed balance and unselfishness that could serve it well come the postseason.
“There wasn’t one star player. Everybody just clicked, and no one was focused on stats or themselves,” said Cat Correa, who led the team with 20 points. “No one was selfish with the ball.”
The unselfishness started with the defense. The Bulldogs zoned in on Katerra Myers and Patricia Anumgba, who each came in averaging more than 21 points. Churchill forced the ball out of their hands to get multiple steals for breakaway layups.
“We really like to run the floor. That’s one of our strongest points this year,” said Leah Rubino, who added 16 points. “We really emphasize fast breaks. When we get a steal, instead of looking around, our idea is to just go-go-go.”
Paint Branch also tried to force the ball out of the hands of Churchill’s best player, Brittini Martin, from the onset. Martin scored 16 points, but her ability to find teammates amid full-court presses and double teams was key, according to Correa.
“She gave the perfect passes,” Correa said. “She was just focused on passing to whoever was open,”
The Bulldogs started fast, going on an 11-0 run to open the game before No. 19 Paint Branch (8-2) steadied itself. The Panthers, led by Myers’s 22 points, were down by just six in the fourth quarter but were hurt by foul trouble. They committed nine fouls in the third quarter, and Churchill shot 20 of its 27 free throws in the second half.
The Bulldogs finished the game with a 14-4 run.
Churchill faces another tough county test Friday night against Whitman.
“We have no time to celebrate,” Correa said. “Tomorrow we need to go right back in it and keep doing what we’re doing.”