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Jan. 11, 2006

Elvis lives as big man sinks Blair

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor

Anyone compiling a list of dominant performances might overlook Montgomery County basketball. But after yet another double-double performance, Magruder's Elvis Ellis might just own the Blair Blazers.

Ellis' 31 points and 12 rebounds helped carry the visiting Colonels (5-2), ranked 12th in the region by The Washington Post, to a 64-58 win over Blair, who has now lost three games in a row.

Blair (2-6) did a very commendable job of corralling nearly every other Magruder player, but Ellis' offensive rebounds ultimately doomed the Blazers. Still, Blair's head coach Orlando Larracuente was not disappointed in the loss to such a good player, and team.

"We hung in tough against them tonight; they're a good team," Larracuente said. "One of our weaknesses is low post defense, and [Ellis] exploited that tonight."

Ross Williams, who scored 11 points for the Blazers tonight, agreed. "It's hard to guard Ellis. We know the big dude's down there; when he gets the ball he'll just throw himself around and get easy shots. We needed to box out more."

Ellis is listed at just 6'5", but he's very muscular, and exploited that advantage often. On multiple occasions, he emphatically grabbed offensive rebounds out of the hands of Blazer defenders and made the second chance shot. His brawn elicited chants of "he too strong!" from the Colonel bench.

Larracuente said after the game that he chose to start tonight's game with a smaller starting lineup, even though it would likely mean an easier time for Ellis. "That decision had to do with chemistry and fluidity, he said. "They hung in there well, and we had to try a new lineup at some point. Ellis is short, really; we play teams that are basically all guards and small forwards. Height is not as important to me as chemistry, which our lineup now has."

The head coach also stressed the importance of guarding outside shooters. "We've got to be able to guard guards and forwards from the outside. If we can do that, we'll win a lot of games."

Injuries also helped lead to the lineup change; forward Mohammed Roberson is out indefinitely with a dislocated ring finger. Starting in his place was Tori Patton, who struggled to cover Ellis and finished with four points on the night.

Blair also allowed Magruder to get to the foul line 12 times in the second half. The Blazers committed 16 fouls to Magruder's nine, and the Colonels made 11 of their 14 free throws. Ellis made seven of his eight free throws on the night.

Magruder led almost the entire game, but never by more than ten. Still, Blair was never able to make a serious rally. John Orr's three-pointer with under three minutes left cut the Blair deficit to four, but that was the closest the Blazers got in the second half. The Blazers got off to a tough start in the first quarter, being outscored 17-10, and never were able to make up that early gap.

Larracuente said that his young team was still struggling to start the games with a necessary amount of energy. "We need to be more consistent out of the gate, and be that way start to finish," he said. "We need a better start to each game."

He also noted that Blair tinkered with a new offensive system, and struggled because of that. "We started tonight with a new offensive set, and we didn't score off it."

But Blair began to grow more comfortable, if not dominant, as the game progressed. Said Williams, the team's ability to hang with such a good team for the entire was a good sign. "This game shows we're improving and building. We had some good fast breaks toward the end, and that was promising." Blair had 10 fast break points on the night.

Larracuente echoed that thought, telling his team in the locker room following the game that the team "is young, but tonight was a step in the right direction." He did qualify that, noting that Blair allowed Ellis to score 31 points, the most an opponent has recorded against the team this season. "We really need to tighten up defensively. We need to get more strength inside."

He said that Blair can win these games in the future, but right now the club is very inexperienced. His goal is to limit the inconsistencies that have plagued the team through the beginning of this season. "We're young, and very inconsistent. The good teams, they go through ups and downs like us. But their downs are shorter; we need to be like that."

Blair seems to have a different leading scorer nearly every game, and tonight it was Jacob Wade, who scored 13 points. The team spread out the scoring very evenly, with four players scoring 11 points or more. Petros Fentahun had 12, and Williams and Larry Johnson recorded 11 each. Williams also made three three-pointers.

Larracuente lauded Wade's effort against the bigger Ellis, saying, "He has a lot of heart. Jacob can rebound, guard inside and play the role of a big man. He helped battle Ellis, and did a tough job well."

The Colonels only had five players record points, but they also had three in double figures. Ellis' 31 carried Magruder, but they also got 12 from Pat Bailey, all courtesy of four three-pointers. Donald Robinson had 11 points off the bench, including two threes.

With 2-6 Churchill coming up Wednesday, Larracuente wasn't upset. "If we play against them like we did tonight, we'll win. I'm not disappointed with tonight's game. It's a long season, and a learning experience. Later in the season, these are the type of games where we can get the victory."

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  • I'm just saying on January 14, 2006 at 6:20 PM
    Coach Lariquente I think you need a reconstruction on your team "FIND SOME SHOOTERS IN THE SCHOOL WHO IS CLUTCH" I mean just wet.
  • re: I'm just saying on January 15, 2006 at 9:23 PM
    This is not coach Lariquente, but I know for a fact that pure shooters are hard to come by. I mean a real, battle tested, clutch, go to guy, is hard to come by. There is not one at every high school, and many college teams lack one aswell. It'd be great for the team if they could find a Ray Allen or Richard Hamilton-like pure shooter, but it is unlikely. A youngster who wants to be that guy, go put in the time on the court practicing. 500 shots a day...
  • shooter on January 16, 2006 at 12:00 PM
    600 shots
  • i know who.... on January 16, 2006 at 9:52 PM
    my boy matt mcclain....pure shoota, babay...
  • ... on January 17, 2006 at 7:54 PM
    Jaydee has a wet jumper.. he should play
  • skeet on February 6, 2006 at 11:07 AM
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