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Feb. 13, 2005

Blair home finale ends in heartbreaking defeat

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
FEB. 11, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM

The 2005 Blair JV boys basketball season has not really been up and down, but rather a season of one really high peak, and a very deep valley. After starting the year 6-1, the Blazers lost eight in a row, snapping that skid Wednesday night. But when they thought they had suffered the worst this year, Blair squandered numerous chances to win their final home game tonight; losing 63-61 to a Gaithersburg Trojans squad that had lost 12 in a row.

The teams were tied at 46 points each after the third quarter, but the Trojans (3-14) were able to build a four-point lead thanks to key jumpers by guards Dylan Bernstein and Jerome Gripper. The Trojans got to the foul line 11 times in the final frame, and were able to hold their small lead inside of a minute to play.

Blair (7-10) had numerous opportunities to chip away at the Trojan lead, but multiple possessions resulted in turnovers and missed lay ups, season-long problems that came back to bite the Blazers again tonight.

Edwin Joyner injured his knee late in the fourth after missing two open lay ups and then battling for the respective rebounds. Tori Patton, who had 21 points tonight, missed two lay ups late in the game.

The mistakes caught the ire of head coach Richard Porac, who yelled multiple times at his players during stoppages of play. He asked rhetorically to one player, "how can you not make a shot? and had other harsh words for his team.

The Blazers were, however, able to capitalize on Trojan errors to give themselves a chance late. Darius Smith went almost end-to-end to make a running lay up with 46 seconds remaining, which cut the Blair deficit to just two. This came after John Levy missed the front end of a one-and one which would have sealed the game away for Gaithersburg.

Dion Montgomery then missed a free throw for the Trojans, but the rebound was corralled by Bernstein, who then coolly made two foul shots to put the game out of reach. The inability to bring down a rebound, followed by a squandered offensive possession, made Porac very upset.

What made the loss so disconcerting for the Blazers was that it was as a result of the same problems that killed Blair all year. The team missed numerous lay ups, shot under 40% from the foul line, and couldn't get a defensive rebound when they had to.

With the loss, Blair assured themselves of the second straight losing season under Porac, who was so upset by the close loss that he was unable to put his frustration in to words following the game.

"Go talk to the players, Porac said, "I don't want to talk. I'm done, I'm really angry, he said, closing the door on his office after talking to his team for about a minute.

The players were stunned, as well, filing out of the locker room silently and individually, some slamming doors behind them. They all seemed to be in disbelief of the fact that they lost their last home game to a team that was 2-14 and hadn't won since December.

Blair started the game on a roll, staking themselves to an 11-2 lead in just the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game. They led by nine after the first quarter, but were outscored 24-13 in the second quarter of play and trailed by two at halftime.

Once again, a Blazer opponent's offense was anchored by their backcourt. This time it was Gripper and Bernstein, who combined for 39 points. Gripper went to the foul line 12 times, and made eight of those attempts. For the first three quarters of play, Gripper was the only Trojan to attempt a single foul shot. The team was 14-24 from the line (58.3%) for the game.

The loss overshadowed a great performance by Blair's big men. Tori Patton scored 21 points, Joyner had 12, and Matt McClain had 11. Joyner and McClain were a combined 7-10 from the charity stripe, but Patton was just 1-6 from the line. Joshua Brown had both three pointers for Blair tonight, and he finished with eight points on the evening.

But tonight's game will be remembered for the same mistakes that plagued Blair all year: inability to make free throws, rebounds, lay ups and not make turnovers.

The crushing loss ends the home schedule for the Blazers, a team loaded with sophomores who will likely make the leap to varsity next year. It's uncertain what the team nine months from now will look like, but Porac will likely be at the helm again.

Whether he uses up all his words in disgust with his team's play is not as unknown. A .500 record is no longer attainable this year, but Blair has one final game at Wootton on Tuesday to make sure that the season doesn't end on a note this sour.



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  • da kid on February 14, 2005 at 10:30 AM
    how did we lose fellas but i still scored 21 for ya holla at me
  • # 32 (View Email) on February 18, 2005 at 2:44 PM
    Good article,
    but it had false information in it.
    Gathersburg has won way more than 3 games and definetly did not lose lose 12 in a row. There a good team and were in contention for the 4A west championship with awinning record. However they lost it my team the, the whitman vikings.
  • GBurg (View Email) on April 22, 2005 at 5:25 PM
    I played for the Gaithersburg JV team, and we definitely didn't go 3-14, try 10-7
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