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March 1, 2010

Patriots sneak past Lady Blazers in playoffs

by Masha Lafen, Online Sports and Entertainment Editor
NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM, – Feb. 26

In their first playoff game of the season, girls' varsity basketball lost to the Wootton Patriots, bringing an end to a successful season with a narrow four-point loss. Blair (10-12) lost to Wootton (12-10) by a score of 56-52.

Throughout the close game, the Lady Blazers played strong defense and aggressive offense, according to head coach Erin Conley. "I think we played the best game of the season tonight," Conley said. "Unfortunately, it was not enough to pull out a victory."

The scores at the end of the first three quarters did not exceed a two-point difference between the teams. Blair was ahead at the end of the second half. In each quarter, strong, tactical aggression secured turnovers for the Blazers numerous times. Sophomore Johanna Lopez was the highest scorer, scoring 21 points for Blair. Wootton retaliated by shooting 75 percent of their shots from the free throw line and keeping the score very close.

The Blazers began the fourth quarter with a score of 43-42. The outcome of the game depended on play in the final eight minutes. At first, a series of successful maneuvers for Wootton caused the Lady Blazers to fall behind by eight points. Yet the team managed to score their way back to a score of 54-52. In the final seconds of the game, Wootton was awarded two free throws, and the game ended with a score of 56-52.

Blair did not play Wootton in the regular season, but the Blazers knew that the Patriots would be a formidable opponent. Wootton defeated Gaithersburg, a team that the Blazers had lost to earlier in the season. Despite this, Conley and the team did not lose confidence. "We knew we could compete with them," she said. "In games like this you've got to take it one possession at a time."

According to junior Janet Henkai, the score showed growth for the team. "Losing by four points was a sign of how much we improved this season," she said. Henkai said that the team had greatly improved their defense since their sloppier game on Tuesday.

Wootton's head coach, Maggie Dyer, said that her team did not underestimate the talent and athleticism of Blair. "We were confident but also realistic," she said. Dyer admitted that the Patriot offense was slightly sluggish in the first half, which contributed to the close score throughout the game.

The Lady Blazers will be saying goodbye to four seniors this year. Darcy Pelz-Butler, Inkera Patterson, Emily Hedrick and Sara Okilj will graduate, leaving behind a sophomore-dominated team.



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