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Feb. 28, 2017

Boys' basketball wins first round playoff game

by Nate Bodner, Sports Editor
The Montgomery Blair Blazers (13-9), the four seed in the playoffs, beat the five seed Bethesda Chevy-Chase Barons (10-14) by a score of 48-43 on Friday evening to advance to the regional quarterfinals against Richard Montgomery. Blair was able to advance thanks to strong defense and limited turnovers. The Blazers were able to remain calm under pressure and eke out a good win.

The game was tight right from the opening buzzer, with both teams coming out very strong. At the end of the first quarter, after some back and forth scoring, the Barons led 12-11. In the first minutes of the second quarter, Blair was able to tie it up at 16 with just under five minutes to play in the half. Forced to pick up his dribble, Blair guard Kendall Douglas threw up a pass to forward Anthony Smith-Davis, who made an impressive catch, then drained the jump shot to give Blair the lead.

The game stayed close and neither team was able to build up a big lead. Blair was winning 20-19 in the final minute after forcing BCC to turn the ball over on consecutive possessions. But then, with only seconds left in the half, Blair guard Demetri Cooper was called for a travel and BCC got possession with four seconds on the clock. The Barons were able to hit a shot as the buzzer sounded to take a 21-20 lead at halftime. At the half the team made the necessary adjustments in order to keep their season alive according to Senior Julius Cobb. “We had to stop them from rebounding, and we did really good job of that. We had to limit our turnovers in the second half, and I believe we did that well too,” said Cobb.

In the third quarter, both teams got off to a quick start, then began to lock each other down defensively. Douglas hit two free throws for Blair a minute in to recapture the lead, but BCC responded with a fast layup. After a turnover in transition, BCC capitalized to make it a 25-22 game with 5:42 left in the third. Three points marked the largest lead for BCC throughout the game.

The Blazers were able to wake up and gain some confidence offensively. They drove hard to the basket, drew fouls, and made free throws. Tied at 27, Blair had all the momentum and confidence. With three minutes remaining in the third, Blair forced a turnover and Douglas drilled a three pointer in transition. The Blazers showed the patience and ball movement necessary to break down BCC’s stifling 2-3 zone.

At the end of the third quarter Blair center Julius Cobb had a monster block on a BCC forward that lit up the crowd. It took some time for the action to get going in the fourth, but Bethesda was finally able to score a layup to make it a one point game. Strong play on both sides of the ball allowed Blair to keep scoring on offense and force turnovers and bad shots for BCC on defense.

Blair put clutch points on the board to keep the game just out of reach for BCC. After a crazy lay up from Cobb gave the Blazers a three point lead, Blair forced another turnover and Douglas drained a jumper to make it 34-29. On the Barons' next possession, Cobb was able to draw a charge from a BCC guard to regain possession. BCC could not get any meaningful offense going in the fourth quarter as they fought to keep their season alive. At this stage in the game, BCC had begun playing a full court press in an attempt to force turnovers and make Blair’s guards panic.

Blair forward Ethan Ellis was able to draw a foul and make both his free throws with two minutes remaining in the game. After Blair regained the ball, they were able to pass through BCC’s press and Cooper made a layup and was fouled and injured on the play, unable to return. Christopher Larkins subbed in for Cooper and missed the and-one. Regardless, Blair was able to clamp down and BCC was forced to start fouling. Blair’s lead was only 40-36 before they were able to shut the door on the Barons' season for good. The Blazers were able to make their free throws in the last minute of the game to put it out of reach. The final score was 48-43 Blair.

Blair senior Kendall Douglas said that last week's matchup with BCC gave Blair a good scouting report to use in this game. “They played a lot of zone, and we knew they were bigger than us, so we knew we just had to box out hard and attack their zone with the pass,” Douglas said. Blair’s starting group was able to execute their plan to perfection, as they picked apart the zone with ease.

Blair looks to build on this performance and make the necessary adjustments for their next playoff game against the more athletic Richard Montgomery Rockets (20-5). The Rockets, a one seed with a first round bye, will face the Blazers on Feb. 28 at Richard Montgomery.



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