BURTONSVILLE — Three weeks after the Paint Branch varsity boys basketball team defeated its division rival Springbrook Blue Devils on Springbrook’s home turf, the Blue Devils strode into the Panthers’ house Friday and returned the favor, winning by a score of 80-76.
The bleachers were once again packed to capacity as fans poured into the gym to witness two of the county’s top teams vie for the No. 1 spot in their division.
Springbrook’s fast, aggressive start seemed to stun the Panthers as the Blue Devils jumped out to an early lead behind Quinnipiac University commit Matthew Balanc (29 points) and senior guard Anthony Deruisseau (13 points.)
The Blue Devils dictated a breakneck pace from the beginning, capitalizing on turnovers and beating the Panthers on the boards. Balanc stole the ball and blazed down the court, emphatically slamming down his first dunk of the evening to bring the screaming crowd to its feet.
Springbrook’s seven first-half three-pointers gave the Blue Devils a double-digit lead heading into the half.
Even though the Panthers never led throughout the entire game, they would soon orchestrate a comeback that erased Springbrook’s comfortable lead and almost earned Paint Branch another division victory.
Sophomore forward Jordan Alphonso and junior guard Richard Dudley led the charge, combining for 21 points in the second half to bring the Panthers to within five points with just four minutes left to play.
Deruisseau earned his fourth foul when he came down on Dudley as the junior aimed from behind the arc. Dudley went three-for-three at the free throw line, and senior guard Jordan Heard hit a trey a few seconds later to pull the Panthers within one point with 34 ticks left on the game clock.
Balanc slowed his frenetic pace and drew a foul as he landed a layup that put the game on ice for the Blue Devils. The victory snapped Paint Branch’s four-game winning streak against Springbrook that dated back to last season.
“It feels good to get revenge. We needed that,” said Balanc. “This is the momentum we need to finish the season off and get into the playoffs. We hope to see them again in the playoffs and especially on our home court.”
Paint Branch head coach Chris Bohlen echoed Balanc’s sentiments.
“We’d love to [see them in the playoffs.] These games are always competitive and this is what we live for as coaches, as competitive players,” said Bohlen. “You just have to respect what they do and it’s always great competing against that. It’s always nice to have neighborhood rivalries. What an atmosphere for a high school basketball game.”
Springbrook is set to host old rival Montgomery Blair Wednesday. The Panthers will host Einstein Monday.