ROCKVILLE – Clarksburg High School’s undefeated season was in jeopardy on Jan. 13 when the Coyotes faced off against 6-3 Richard Montgomery High School. Clarksburg had found itself in a 13 point hole at halftime with only 16 minutes of playing time left to try to come back and maintain that perfect season.
The Coyotes needed a spark to push past the Rockets, and that spark materialized at the start of the second half. The Clarksburg team that took the court to start the third quarter displayed a markedly different demeanor than the team that had exited the gym just 10 minutes beforehand.
That timely burst of extra energy carried Clarksburg to its tenth straight win by a final score of 78-66.
The Coyotes came alive after a lackluster first half. They generated turnovers, they rebounded their own shots, and they passed to their teammates for layups.
Richard Montgomery’s 13-point lead was extinguished in a matter of minutes as Clarksburg strung together a 11-2 run.
There was one Clarksburg player, though, whose energy level had skyrocketed past the energy of her teammates. Junior guard Kaleah Boykin had managed just one bucket in the entire first half, but the Rockets couldn’t seem to stop Boykin in the third quarter. The junior tallied 13 points as she drove to the basket again and again and even provided the go-ahead layup that brought the Clarksburg bench to its feet.
The motivation behind Boykin’s performance was simple.
“I wasn’t ready to lose,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to mess up our clean record, so I came in and I said, ‘we’re going to win this.’ And I hyped up our team, and that hyped up everybody else, and so we won.”
Before the Coyotes could win, though, they had to contend with Richard Montgomery guard Anujin Dashdorj. The senior contributed a game-high 36 points, including an unprecedented nine three pointers; both are records for the Rockets over the past eight seasons.
In fact, Dashdorj was the driving force behind Richard Montgomery’s strong start, and she continued to land buckets from behind the arc even when the Coyotes were running away with the lead.
Clarksburg sophomore guard Mia Smith (24 points) said that part of her team’s halftime adjustments included trying to find a way to contain Dashdorj.
“I feel like we didn’t really realize our competition at first,” said Smith. “We realized we had to get on (Dashdorj) and play better defense, play together as a team and move the ball around to get the best shot. We made it a team game in the second half.”
That renewed focus on teamwork and passing the ball helped Clarksburg fight through Richard Montgomery’s tight defense. The Rockets forced the Coyotes to use up the entire shot clock on several occasions and the seconds ticked down to single digits as Clarksburg searched for the open shot.
After the Coyotes overcame Richard Montgomery’s lead, the score seesawed for several minutes before another go-ahead layup by Boykin. Clarksburg appeared ready to head into the fourth quarter with the lead, but Dashdorj’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer tipped the score back in the Rockets’ favor. Dashdorj celebrated by slapping the ground with her hands as the home crowd rejoiced.
Clarksburg’s onslaught continued into the fourth quarter. Both Smith and Gettysburg College commit Miki Howson led the charge as both players pulled fouls and delivered at the free throw line.
Meanwhile, the Rockets offense sputtered as Clarksburg embarked on an unanswered 14-0 scoring run.
The Coyotes led by double-digit points, but Dashdorj appeared unfazed as she knocked down another pair of 3-pointers in the final quarter. However, even the senior’s hot hand wasn’t enough to push Richard Montgomery past Clarksburg.
“I think we just got complacent, you know, but we have to learn from that,” said Dashdorj. “I did good, but we didn’t come out with the win. This is fuel, all of this is fuel. We’re going to learn from our mistakes and keep going.”
The Coyotes have a chance to continue their undefeated streak when Sherwood High School comes to Clarksburg on Jan. 17. The Rockets, on the other hand, will play against Quince Orchard High School on Jan. 21 before clashing again with the Coyotes on Jan. 24.