GAITHERSBURG – The intense rivalry between Gaithersburg and Quince Orchard high schools and their girls basketball teams lived up to its hype on Feb. 22. Quince Orchard overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter en route to a 67-59 road victory over Lady Trojans.
Quince Orchard Head Coach Bobby Bishop pumped his fist in the air late in the fourth quarter after the Cougars had rallied to take the lead. Their defense was a key factor in the comeback as the Lady Trojans did not have an answer for a team on a mission.
“They played hard down the stretch,” said Gaithersburg Head Coach Adrian McDaniel. “They played hard, we made a lot of mistakes, and they capitalized on them. He does a great job with them.”
Quince Orchard’s Paige McNeal scored a season-high 24 points to lead the Cougars, and senior Paige Copenhaver came off the bench to score 10 points for the visiting team, who trailed 53-44 with 5:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
McNeal, a junior who also competes on the school’s soccer team, was instrumental in the Cougars’ victory.
“Paige stepped up, and she did her thing, so that was a key for us,” said Bishop. “And she definitely gave us good minutes on defense and rebounding. She had an overall tight game.”
Copenhaver, who netted eight points in the final period, was also a key factor in the Cougars’ victory, according to the head coach.
“She was a big spark for me, because I put her in at the end of the game,” said Bishop. “I was talking to coaches and said, ‘Who should I put in?’ They were like, ‘Put Paige and I’m like, yeah. They made me look like a genius.”
Jenna Williams, Lindsay Michaels, Makayla Wright, Alex Boggs, Destini Kelley and Anaya Badmus also contributed to Quince Orchard’s amazing comeback.
Meanwhile, Gaithersburg was led by the dynamic duo of Morgan Brogden and Jada Thornton, who combined for the majority of the Trojans’ points.
Brogden, a senior, scored a team-high 23 points, and junior sharpshooter Thornton finished with 18 points in a losing cause. Gaithersburg also received contributions from Sarah Dymond, Makayla Robinson, Kadija Nabe and Nathy Lozano.
Gaithersburg went into the halftime break with a 34-32 advantage, after three student-athletes converted four free throws from the charity stripe. Dymond and Lozano each knocked down a foul shot in the waning moments before Brogden converted a pair of free throws right before intermission.
Both teams battled back and forth with each other in the third quarter before Gaithersburg surged ahead to take a 49-42 lead on Brogden’s three-pointer with six seconds remaining in the period.
Quince Orchard outscored Gaithersburg in the fourth period, 25-7, to earn some local bragging rights and momentum heading into the postseason.
However, McDaniel, who guided Gaithersburg to a 10-10 regular season’s record, said his team should be prepared for the postseason despite the loss, and that the Trojans can ill-afford to make mistakes against a well-coached squad.
“We just got to finish our free throws,” said McDaniel. “We missed six down the stretch and turned the ball over. We can’t do that down the stretch against a good team.”
Quince Orchard, who finished the regular season at 14-6, looks forward to making a run in the postseason and believes the win over Gaithersburg will give them some momentum.
“Our culture is defense,” said Bishop. “No matter what the lead is, we always feel that we can come back.”