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Feb. 27, 2008

Boys' basketball closes out regular season with win

by Greg Kohn, Online Sports Editor
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, FEB. 26

The boys' varsity basketball team finished off the regular season in a dominating fashion Tuesday night, defeating the Wheaton Knights 58-35. The win came just a day after a convincing 15-point victory at Gaithersburg on Monday. By posting their first back-to-back victories since beginning the season 2-0, the team ended the regular season at 5-17, and will host the Blake Bengals on Saturday for the first round of playoffs.
Junior center Leon Sampson propels himself towards the rim against Wheaton on Tuesday. Gili Perl
Junior center Leon Sampson propels himself towards the rim against Wheaton on Tuesday.

The recent string of wins could not have been timelier, according to head coach Mark DeStefano. "It's great to see the season finally coming around," DeStefano said after the game. "The development that these victories show is sure to make the playoffs exciting."

As is tradition, the last regular season game is Senior Night. The seven seniors on the squad were honored: co-captain Milton Colquehoun, co-captain Joe Dubuche, Issy Melton, Rex Jarrett, Quentin Snively, Jonas Shaffer and Rashid Ahmed. As the final part of the tradition, these were the first seven players to hit the court for Blair.

Despite the irregular starting lineup, the Blazers were in control from the tip-off. The Knights were the first to score, sinking a quick three-pointer. The resulting lead, however, was the only one Wheaton would enjoy all night. A very fired up Blazer team scored the next nine points, and shared the wealth in doing so. Melton, who finished with a game high 14 points, worked the paint while Jarrett, Snively and Colquehoun contributed from the perimeter.

Even more impressive was the intensity of Blair's defense. Quick hands and acute anticipation resulted in countless Wheaton turnovers and only two first quarter baskets for the visitors. Blair took a 9-5 lead into the second quarter.

The Blazer offense picked up in the second quarter with the substitutions of junior forward Mike McClain and junior center Leon Sampson. McClain's presence was immediately felt on a long jumper, which extended the Blair advantage to 13-5.

The Blazers could do little wrong - shots were falling for everyone, as the Knights had difficulty getting past half court. Blair kept up their defensive pressure, allowing Wheaton just five more points before halftime. The Blazers continued to spread the points, with Dubuche, Snively, McClain and Melton all contributing in the quarter for a 26-10 halftime score.
Senior Joe Dubuche goes inside for the Blazers on Senior Night. Gili Perl
Senior Joe Dubuche goes inside for the Blazers on Senior Night.

DeStefano cited Blair's unselfishness as an important reason for the win. "If everyone is scoring, that's a good sign," DeStefano said. "Showing patience in finding the open man or the right matchup is necessary to exploit the other team's weaknesses."

Wheaton finally found their shot in the third quarter, but not before Melton and Colquehoun buried the Knights in a 26-point hole, 38-12. While a second-half defensive let down has been a consistent trend for the Blazers all year, they finally broke the pattern of an accompanying offensive drought. Blair yielded a 15-point quarter to Wheaton, but sustained a strong 43-25 lead for the last period.

Blair's strong offensive production continued in the fourth quarter as well, where the team scored another fifteen points. With a resounding lead, DeStefano was able to clear the bench, a feat uncommon this year due to an overwhelming number of close games. The final score was 58-35.

With the regular season completed, DeStefano is already looking to Saturday's playoff match. "Everybody needs to be ready, because it may take everyone," DeStefano said. "We can't predict - we can only prepare."

The coach is not the only one looking forward to Saturday. "We've been losing close games all season, but we've never let it discourage us," Jarrett said. "We've just been waiting for our moment in the playoffs, to prove how we can play."

Blair is 0-2 against Blake this year, though in neither game was Blair at full strength due to injuries and illnesses. Their most recent match-up was a 50-48 thriller on Jan. 29.

The Blazers' first playoff game is at home this Saturday, March 1 against Blake at 2 p.m.



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