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Jan. 27, 2017

Girls' basketball dismantles the Bengals 52-38

by Benjamin Yokoyama, Online Sports Editor
The Blazers girls basketball team (9-3) came back from a first half deficit to take down the Blake Bengals (2-13) on Monday night for their sixth consecutive win after a convincing victory over the Sherwood Warriors.

Blair turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter on errant passes and poor ball management. The Blazers went to the bench quickly to bring in junior Saraswati Temple, who brought a necessary energy to the Blazers and kept them in the game. Forward Aissatou Bokoum scored the first points of the game on an entry pass to the post from Temple. Bokoum and fellow forward Nora Olagbaju helped the Blazers get on the board in the slow first quarter, as the two combined for six of the eight points in the quarter. After Temple attempted to drive baseline and make a reverse layup, Olagbaju grabbed the rebound and put it back in for an easy two. Blair's defense was lackluster in the first quarter. The Blazers allowed 12 points in the quarter, while allowing just 13 in the next two quarters combined. After Blake's forward stepped behind the arc and knocked down a three pointer, Blair found itself in a six point hole. "We were playing too relaxed on defense, and our coach made it clear to us that we need to pick it up because when we play badly on defense we don't have much energy on offense," Olagbaju said.

Thanks to the energy of Temple, Blair's defense started to come alive. The quarter started with two steals that lead to fouls at the other end for Temple. Blake turned the ball over 11 times in the second quarter, most of them forced by Blair's defensive pressure. Blair took the lead on yet another strong drive by Temple, but they quickly gave it away on a wild and-one shot by Blake. But another smart inbound pass on the baseline by senior guard Allison Mackenzie to Bokoum gave Blair the lead for good. The Blazers kept that lead for the remainder of the game and ended the half with a 21-17 lead.

After the half, the Bengals again fell victim to turnovers, as Blair's continued press and varied looks on defense confused the Bengals' ballhandlers. Blair's zone trap forced the Bengals to throw passes over the defenders, which resulted in many of Blake's mistakes and low scoring output in the second and third quarters. Forward L'Shana Cobey came off the bench and contributed her share at the start of the third, when she grabbed two offensive rebounds on the same possession and finally converted with two points of her own. Cobey made a huge play with 3:30 remaining in the quarter, as a Blake guard tried to put a shot up to no avail, as Cobey blocked her by grabbing the ball before it had the chance to leave the shooter's hand. Temple took three more trips to the line in the third. The Blazers were switching up the defensive tactics on the Bengals, who had no responses for the different looks Blair offered. "We like to throw a lot of differents defenses at our opponent, sometimes we trap, sometimes we don't, and it helps us with our intensity but also catches our opponents off guard," said Mackenzie.

With a nine point lead, the Blazers seemed to relax defensively, but they kept pouring in basket after basket. Cobey and Olagbaju each scored two baskets, while Mackenzie continued to feed the ball down to them in the post. Although Blake was able to scored 13 points, its highest single-quarter scoring output, Blair stretched the lead out to 16 until Blake scored the last two points of the game, and the Blazers ended the game with a comfortable 52-38 win. Once the Blazers found their stride down low, they were able to get second chance points and stretch the lead. "I feel like I was really frustrated in the first half and when I get frustrated our coach always tells me to rebound the ball, so when I started getting those second chances, we were able to move the ball more," Olagbaju said.

Next the Blazers will play at Paint Branch (12-4) and Springbrook (5-10) on Wednesday and Friday.



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