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Feb. 9, 2005

JV Blazers force a Rockets meltdown in close win

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Feb. 8, Nelson Nelson H. Kobren Memorial Gymnasium

The Blair boy's JV basketball game was a tale of two very, very different halves. For the Blazers, after a half of run-and-gun, playing to Richard Montgomery's style, they got stingy on defense. Stingy enough to keep RM from making a single field goal in the fourth quarter, en route to a 52-47 Blair win, snapping an eight game losing skid.

Astonishingly, the win is the first for the Blazers (7-9) since varsity coach Orlando Larracuente gutted the then 6-1 Junior Varsity team, calling up four of the best players over winter break. The totally redesigned squad had gone 0-8 then, but according to JV coach Richard Porac, the team had been improving since having to essentially start over.

"When you mix team chemistry,” he noted after the game, "it takes a while to get back to where you were. Not just for the players, but for me too. I'm proud how hard these guys played tonight.”

The tough defense displayed in the second half was a complete turnaround for the Blazers. They had allowed 34 points to RM (5-11) in the first 16 minutes of the game, including 19 points in the second quarter alone.

But Blair allowed just seven points in the third, took the lead 42-41 at the end of the period and never looked back, although at times, their neck was almost bent that way by mistakes in the fourth quarter, as Porac noted.

"This group of guys are not used to playing with the lead. They have to learn how to do that. It's not even something I can coach, they've got to learn.”

With the Blazers up five late in the game, they squandered multiple chances to slam the door on the Rockets. Inside of two minutes to play, the Rockets were trying to foul Blair, but Edwin Joyner turned the ball over, and Jonathan Brown traveled with 47.9 seconds left, leaving RM's window of opportunity slightly ajar.

But for the mistakes made on offense, Blair made up for them on the other end. Matt McClain forced both a turnover and a jump ball with under a minute left. Then, with RM down three with seven seconds to play, he stripped RM's Timmy Clarke of the ball, passed to Jonathan Brown, whose two free throws with 2.4 seconds left iced the win.

"Defensively, were incredible in the second half. The fourth quarter line says it all,” Porac noted. The line for RM in that period showed that all six Rockets points came off of turnovers, while the team was 0-for-14 from the field.

No one Blazer was more representative of the change than McClain. Suffering from the flu, he was silent in the first half, unable to score a point. But he scored five critical points in the fourth quarter, and snared seven rebounds, and had three blocks in the last five minutes of the game to help ensure a win.

In the first half, Blair was able to stay with RM, but trailed the Rockets 34-31. Clarke was playing very well against the struggling Blazer defense, and he scored 13 points in the half. Lee Siegel scored 10 points.

However, the second half wouldn't provide the same fruits for RM. They scored six fewer points in the second half (13) than they did in the second quarter (19). A seemingly reinvigorated McClain held Clarke from scoring a field goal; his only points were from the free throw line. Siegel made only one more two-point jump shot for the remainder of the game.

"At the half, I told the team,” Porac said, "that if you let them score 34 points again, there's no way we can win. I mean, we shot about as well as we could in the first half. As for Matt, he came out in the second half and just lock him down and didn't let Clarke score a basket from the floor in the whole half.”

On the offensive side, Blair was anchored by the three point shot. Darius Smith made three, and all three Brown's contributed from beyond the arc. Brothers Joshua and Jonathan each had one, as did un-related Alex Brown. McClain even added a three-pointer, and Porac took notice of his team's long-distance success.

"That was one of the things that was the difference tonight. We had eight threes today,” he said. "And we came out of the locker room ready to play.” Tori Patton helped start the Blair rally, scoring the first six Blair points of the second half.

Still, the game was not without it's share of problems. Before RM began to intentionally foul, the discrepancy was alarming. With 2:23 remaining, Blair had committed nine personal fouls in the second half, while the Rockets had just one to their name. RM shot 27 free throws, while Blair took just 13, stats that left even Porac unable to put a sentence together.

"I don't know about 9 to 1 fouls…I don't know…I cant even comment on that one,” he said with a sheepish smile.

But what he could comment on was how much the new team had improved. "I told them after the game,” Porac said, "that we basically started over halfway through the season, so the last couple games we've played well. It's hard to see it when you're still losing, but we've gotten better.

"You put in all this time every day after a long day at school, and you want to see them win. This isn't even for me, it's all for them. Looking at them after the game, how happy they were. It was like they won the Super Bowl.”

NOTES:Blair has two games remaining this season, on Friday against Gaithersburg, and next Tuesday at Wootton…Two more wins would get Blair to their first .500 season at the JV level in half a decade…This game was rescheduled just days ago to this evening, as it was originally scheduled for this coming Saturday… The Rockets' Parker Davis started tonight's game and scored 0 points…Late in the third quarter, the referees ejected an RM supporter from the game for heckling the officials' calls.

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  • blazer on February 10, 2005 at 8:11 AM
    how many points did gus score?
  • gus on February 10, 2005 at 8:12 AM
    i dropped 26
  • Blazer on February 10, 2005 at 3:35 PM
    Gus didn't even play
  • M Rock (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 2:41 PM
    I didn't score either ... But I'm a BEAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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