UPPER MARLBORO — Brandon Howell backpedaled to half-court with a sly grin. The senior guard couldn’t help it.
“I knew I was on,” Howell said when he drilled a 3-pointer five feet past the arc to expand Wise’s lead to 11 points over Bowie deep in the third quarter on Tuesday night.
It was one of five unconscious treys Howell connected on, which all served as galvanizing blows to a Bowie team that seemed lost defensively. From there, No. 1 Wise geared into cruise control to dismantle the No. 6 Bulldogs at home, 73-49.
The Pumas (12-0) shook off a flat start when they trailed 9-2 in the opening three and a half minutes to remain one of two unbeaten teams in the state of Maryland. Wise started 1-for-5 with a pair turnovers while yielding to Bowie’s first 4 of 5 attempts – three wide open layups and a put-back forced Wise Coach Rob Garner to burn an early timeout and switch from man-to-man to a matchup 3-2 zone.
Wise rattled off a 20-0 run spanning five minutes to take a 22-9 lead at the 5:42 mark in the second quarter. Mike Speight triggered the game-altering stretch when he kissed a floater off the glass, and Howell’s first 3-ball gave the Pumas an 11-9 advantage and a lead they would not lose.
After Bowie’s 4-for-5 start, they only converted 34 percent of their shots for the rest of the game, and finished on 18-for-46 shooting with a 21.4 percent mark from downtown (3-for-14)
“That 32, it’s something that we go to,” Garner said. “We go to it when we feel we can make a change in the game.”
Bowie countered with an 8-2 run to draw within seven, 24-17, with just under four minutes left until halftime. An unconscious catch-and-shoot 3 from Howell (23 points on 5 of 8 from deep) stretched Wise’s lead back to double-figures, 29-17, right before the intermission, where they led, 32-23.
The closest Bowie got in the second half was 32-26, and moments after that, Howell bombed another pulverizing 3 to push the Pumas’ advantage to 38-28 – this one came deep in the right corner.
The Bulldogs lurked, but never pulled within three possessions, due in large part to Howell’s jolting shooting display. He drilled his fourth and fifth 3’s in a 35 second span to conclude the third quarter, which gave Wise a 45-34 and 48-37 lead.
“He gets me pumped up,” senior 6-foot-6 forward Darron Barnes (eight points and 15 rebounds) said of Howell.
Senior guard Michael Speight (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) then chimed in: “When (Brandon) is on, he wakes up everybody.”
Wise opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 spurt to pad their lead to 58-39.
The Pumas shot 45 percent from the floor and assisted on 16 of their 23 made field goals (23-for-51). Point guard Brent Pegram finished with 17 points, seven assists and three steals.
Wise has sat atop the MSA Top 25 poll for all nine weeks and still hasn’t tallied a blemish in the loss column. The key to it all?
“We’re just having fun with it,” Pegram said.