Blair boys advance in playoffs

Feb. 26, 2002, midnight | By Ben Penn | 22 years, 3 months ago

Blazers defeat Churchill 50-38


In a 4A West regional quarterfinal against Churchill High School, it took the Blazers a full half before they started taking command over the 6-18 Bulldogs. Thanks to an energized defense and an effective transition game, Blair (20-3) advanced to the regional semifinals with a 50-38 win.

The Blazers, who have defeated Churchill all three times the teams have met this season, were only leading 19-17 at halftime. The Bulldogs slowed down the game, limiting the number of possessions for both teams. And Blair, playing without a true center, struggled to score on the zone defense. The usual remedy to bust a good zone defense, hitting threes, is not an option for this Blazer squad, which has several solid midrange shooters but lacks a man with three-point range.

But in the second half, Blair returned to what has worked all season: a trapping press that forces turnovers and leads to transition points. Senior swingman Javier Ramos, who scored a team-high 16 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals, scored back-to-back lay-ups that gave Blair a 25-17 lead and forced Churchill to call a timeout with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Play resumed, but the Bulldogs could do nothing to remedy the situation. After a Churchill turnover led to a two-handed dunk by senior forward Chijioke Anyanwu (13 points, six assists, five rebounds) and a 31-20 Blair lead, the Bulldogs called another timeout, with 3:20 left in the quarter.

Coach Jeff Newby knew that a full-court press would allow the Blazers to take advantage of mismatches. "Our guards are taller than their guards. When we trap, it's very hard for them to throw over the top," said Newby. "That's one of things we worked on in practice and it was effective today."

An encouraging sign for the Blazers was that they managed to pull out the win despite receiving only six points from their leading scorer, senior guard Ellis Yeadon. Plus, Blair is without its star senior point guard Cyril Djoukeng. Djoukeng broke his right wrist during Blair's 72-49 victory over Wheaton High School on Feb 14. Coincidentally, he had missed three games in a row before the Wheaton game as a result of a fracture in his left wrist.

This Thursday, Feb 28, Blair will play at Quince Orchard (QO) High School, who defeated Damascus High School 54-46 on Tuesday night. QO defeated Blair 65-52 earlier this season and has a major size advantage over the Blazers, prompting Newby to declare his team the clear underdogs. "Hopefully we can counteract their size with our defense and create some things. They did a pretty good job against us the first time so we're going to have an uphill battle to win this one," Newby said.

Blair, the 4A/3A East Division's regular season Champions and the number two seed in the its 4A West Region for the playoffs, received a first-round bye, while Churchill needed a win over Wootton High School on Feb 22 to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Region's number one seed, Magruder High School, narrowly edged Springbrook High School 72-69 in its quarterfinal game and will play Walter Johnson High School in the other semifinal. Magruder is the defending 4A State Champions and has recently benefited from the return of last season's leading scorer Isaiah Swann. Swann was academically ineligible for all but three regular season games, but is back in top form. The sophomore lit Springbrook up for 33 points.

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Ben Penn. Ben Penn, a senior in the Communication Arts Program, is thrilled to be taking on the role of managing sports editor for Silver Chips. While holding the position of page editor last year, Ben is proud to say that he was the only person on … More »

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