Walter Hardy didn't know what results his atypical preseason plan would yield.
Well, he knew one result.
“I know, Hank Galotta, my mentor, would kill me,” said Hardy, Paint Branch High School's boys basketball coach. “I won't tell him.”
Hardy — who played for and coached under Galotta at Paint Branch — spent less time than usual teaching fundamentals and spent more time installing offensive sets.
“We did some things differently, and hopefully, it pays off,” Hardy said.
If Thursday is any indication, the plan worked brilliantly.
Paint Branch beat host Watkins Mill High School, 79-48, in the season opener for both teams. Simply, Watkins Mill (0-1) looked like it was playing its first game. Paint Branch (1-0) did not.
If there's ever a time for Hardy to tell Galotta about his admittedly risky plan, it's now, after a 31-point win over a Watkins Mill team that also has high expectations this season. Watkins Mill won the Montgomery County 3A/2A Division title last year and lost by just three points in the playoffs to eventual 3A West Region champion Tuscarora.
“We can't be defined by one game,” Watkins Mill coach Jay Tringone said. “A lot of people are going to see that score and be like, 'Wow.' I'm still kind of like 'wow' myself.”
Tringone credited much of the result to Paint Branch, which returns four starters from a team that went 17-8 last season.
“Some people think we're all hype and people are looking past us. They still love Magruder,” Paint Branch senior guard Tristan Tolliver said. “It's alright. We like it, the doubt. We get to prove people wrong.”
In the near future, Watkins Mill will certainly face more doubt than Paint Branch. Though there's no great shame in playing like it's an opening game during an opening game, Thursday's contest looked pretty jarring, especially while Paint Branch jumped to a 42-16 halftime lead.
“We have to understand what happened tonight,” said Tringone, whose team started 0-5 last year, but recovered to have a successful season. “We have to understand, mentally and physically, what happened tonight. And Xs-and-O-wise and every facet of the game, we have to truly — there's no way we want to forget what happened tonight. But we have to move on. There's no reason to dwell on it. We have to learn from it and that's what we'll do.”
Paint Branch's top six players — Tolliver, Jordan Radway, Tre Galloway, Justin Hackley, John Onukaogu and Desmond Harris — each scored at least eight points, though none scored more than 13.
“It all works out through the offense,” Tolliver said. “We all go through the offense and the points will come.”
This year, sooner than usual.
Paint Branch 79, Watkins Mill 48
Paint Branch — Tristan Tolliver 13; Tre Galloway 12; Jordan Radway 11; Justin Hackley 9; Desmond Harris 9; John Onukaogu 8; Reuban Edwards 7; Jason Scott 3; Peter Gray 3; Dom Ortiz 2; George Gardner 2.
Watkins Mill — Tyvon Grant 16; Alex Sotomayor 14; J.R. Gibson 7; Robert Montgomery Jr. 5; Dontay Hears 4; Patrick Schlosser 2.