One of Montgomery County’s top young rivalries is the Battle of the ‘Burgs between the 4A West’s Clarksburg and Gaithersburg.
Situated just eight miles apart on Route 355, these two schools’ athletics programs face off multiple times a year, usually in close and competitive contests.
The Coyotes (5-11) and Trojans’ (13-2) second meeting of the 2018-19 boys’ basketball season unfortunately ended up being one of the more one-sided affairs, as the visiting Trojans completed the season sweep of the Coyotes with a 76-44 victory Friday evening.
“It’s easy to say we have injuries, it’s easy to say we’re a little banged up,” Clarksburg head coach Steven Watson said. “Bottom line: We didn’t compete at a high level. That’s a high-level team, that’s a team that has eyes on winning the region, and from start to finish there were very few moments where we were willing to compete at that level.”
The Trojans started hot, putting up 11 points in the first four minutes of the game before the Coyotes could get on the board. The Coyotes rallied to shrink the gap to 6 points, only trailing 17-11 by the end of the first period.
“There were a couple stretches in the first quarter [when] they jumped out on us early,” Watson said. “There was a stretch, we showed some fight, we fought our way back.”
Despite Clarksburg’s best efforts, the Gaithersburg offense stayed red-hot throughout the first half. Gaithersburg sophomores Jordan Hawkins and Jao Ituka and junior Chris Kouemi combined for all but 7 of their team’s first-half points as their team led 41-18 after two periods.
“I think one of the stories of the game that we’re going to look at and talk about as coaches is I don’t know if we won a 50-50 ball today,” Watson said. “I don’t know if we got a loose ball today. They killed us on the offensive glass, they killed us on the defensive glass.”
The Coyotes found a bit more rhythm in the third quarter, putting up a game-best 14 points, but still found themselves down 58-32 with one quarter to go.
“Coming out in the second half, we tried to change some things defensively,” Watson said. “We could never get our grip, never get a hold of it.”
The Trojans had subbed out most of their offensive playmakers by the start of the fourth quarter, but still closed out strong for the 76-44 victory.
The Coyotes’ top scorers were sophomores Ryan Prather and Ahmadou Aw, with 15 and 8 points, respectively. Junior Rahul Parekh finished with 7 points on the night.
“I applaud Gaithersburg, they’re a very good team for a reason, they’re going to be a tough out in the playoffs,” Watson said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get to that place where we can start to challenge them. I think the pieces are here for that, but we’ve got to play better than we did today.”
The two teams’ first meeting this season came was a 67-53 victory for Gaithersburg at home on Jan. 2. With Friday night’s win, Gaithersburg sweeps Clarksburg for the third straight season after a 62-60 defeat in the 2016 MPSSAA Sectional Final.
“Today was not what we’re supposed to do, today was not the way we want to play,” Watson said. “It’s hard on these guys, because we’ve got a bunch of 15-year-olds, sophomores and juniors. Jao and Jordan are their age, but they don’t see that level every day, and today was certainly a lesson in what it takes to get to that point.”
The Coyotes look to reclaim their form and complete their own season sweep later this week as they travel to face UpCounty rival Damascus Friday night. The Coyotes won the teams’ previous meeting 61-17 at home Dec. 7 Tip-off is scheduled for 7:15 pm on Friday in Damascus.
Top: Clarksburg senior Josh Nymik (22) attempts to move the ball while being guarded by Gaithersburg sophomores Jao Ituka (15) and Immanuel Page (2) during Friday night’s game.
Next: Coyotes’ top scorer was sophomore Ryan Prather (23) with 15 points in Friday’s game.
Next: Clarksburg sophomore Drew Moore (20) with the ball.
Photos by Billy Owens for Germantown Pulse