Basketball is a game of momentum.
After dominating the majority of the game and a last-minute comeback, Catoctin Boys Hoops steadied the ship to edge out Smithsburg, 67-63, on January 14. The team then kept pace with the region, taking out Clear Spring and Williamsport consecutively.
The Smithsburg win was hard-fought with a down-to-the-wire slugfest between two rivals.
The neck and neck contest saw both teams battling for control throughout much of the first half, with Catoctin holding a 26-23 lead over the Leopards. Head coach Brian Burdette lit a fire under his team to start the third quarter, and the Cougars never looked back.
“Coming off the game against Middletown, I knew we were going to come out a little flat to start,” Burdette said. “We regrouped and started to do the things we wanted to do offensively, and we were able to get clean looks at the basket to heat up and pull away a little bit.”
Rivalries always add a bit of spice to a game. With the home crowd roaring, the Cougars came out with winning energy and intensity in the second half.
Catoctin’s explosive third quarter was led by forward David Parker, whose rebounding prowess in the paint gave problems to Smithsburg throughout the game. Parker’s ability to extend plays let the team’s outside shooters flourish, pushing the Cougar lead to as much as 17. Catoctin held a 47-33 advantage in rebounds on the night.
Nailing three-pointers and scoring off the transition put the Cougars firmly into the driver’s seat. When Catoctin can find the open man and stretch out the defense, they are at their best. “When we move the ball, and we cut to get some open looks at the basket, we’re able to knock them down,” Burdette said.
A buzzer-beater to close out the third quarter saw Catoctin ahead 49-35, but the game was far from over. The contest evolved into a chess match, with both coaches wisely using timeouts to stifle the opposition’s momentum. Smithsburg is a team that has no quit, and momentum can change in the blink of an eye.
After holding a 17-point lead with six minutes left, a Smithsburg timeout gave the team life to rally back, putting the home team on its heels late in the game. With the clock winding down, the Leopards continued to pick up steam with defensive tenacity and quick-strike offense.
Smithsburg guard Morgan Hyman hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, putting the Cougars dangerously close to losing their lead. Catoctin headed to the free-throw line with 4.6 on the clock and a two-point lead, and made no mistake, sinking both and putting the game out of reach.
The Cougars’ close call against Smithsburg came as no surprise to Burdette, who has taken notice of the Leopards’ ability to battle back late in games. “I watched the three other games this season, and they’ve come back,” he said. “They don’t give up, and they’re a scrappy ball club. I knew they were capable of doing that.”
With three wins in a row and another big win under their belt, the Cougars are quickly shaping up for the playoff season. While logging these early wins is ideal, the team attitude of always having something to improve on will carry them far.
“We’ve got to improve taking care of the ball in transition,” Burdette said.
When the team is firing on all cylinders, it is hard to beat. If the team continues to integrate its depth and facilitate the ball, there is no telling how far it can go.
Morgan Hyman (left) and Tommy Fitzpatrick (right) battle for possession.