Entering his second season as boys’ basketball coach at Wise, Rob Garner felt more like he was starting from scratch.

There were few familiar faces at those first practice sessions. The Pumas returned just one player from last year’s regular rotation in Micah Till, and until a few days before the start of the basketball regular season, the 6-foot-6 forward was still a tight end, doing his part to deliver the Upper Marlboro school’s first state football title.

Predictably, the beginning of the season featured a few bumps in the road, but Wise has hit its stride with nine wins in its last 10 games. With three weeks left in the regular season, the Pumas (11-4, 8-3) are tied for third place in Prince George’s 4A, two games back of No. 9 Eleanor Roosevelt. Three of their four losses came by three points or less.

“Guys were really trying to get to know each other and their roles” early on, Garner said. “We’ve hit a place in the season where they are trusting each other a little bit more and understand what has to happen for us to be successful.”

Transfers helped re-stock Garner’s backcourt as three starting guards arrived at the school from elsewhere. Senior Marquel Young (North Point) ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game, playing on the perimeter beside a pair of former McNamara players in senior D.J. Nedab and junior Justice Sneed.

Meantime, Till didn’t take long working his way into basketball form after catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Quince Orchard in the Maryland 4A final. He has recorded double-doubles in 13 of 15 games this season, leading the team with 14.1 points per game.

With a few breaks, Wise could be atop the league right now. On Dec. 18, the Pumas led Eleanor Roosevelt until senior Trevor Evans hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left for the final points of the Raiders’ 63-62 victory. They led late in the game against No. 12 DuVal on Jan. 8 before falling, 57-54. Garner credits that loss – the team’s only setback in its past 10 games – with re-focusing his players for the stretch run.

“The attention to detail has been great since then,” Garner said. “We’re just pushing. The league is tough. Every game is tough, and you never know how things are going to finish in this league. Now they understand how important each and every game is going to be. ”