Kennedy uses effective transition game to spoil home opener
DEC. 6, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM —
With home court and high hopes the varsity girls basketball team looked to jumpstart their season today with an opening-day win against the Kennedy Cavaliers. Their opponent had other ideas. Kennedy (1-0) started strong and used a second half surge to pull away from the Blazers (0-1) and put together an impressive 66-53 victory. Blair was never in command of the contest, and, as the game wore on, a fatiguing Blazer squad couldn't keep pace with the Cavalier's opportunistic fast-break offense.
Kennedy started quickly, jumping out to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter. The Blazers' responded with their best basketball of the night, closing the last two minutes of the quarter with an 8-0 run. Blair kept their momentum into the second period, scoring the first five points. Freshmen point guard Jenny Williams found herself at the receiving end of a beautifully executed fast break to cap off the 13-0 scoring spree and seemingly put the Blazers in the driver's seat with an 18-15 lead, their largest of the night. However, Kennedy responded quickly with a 15-6 spurt that would give them a 32-24 halftime advantage and swing the momentum in the Cavaliers' favor for good.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with Kennedy responding to each Blair advance and steadily building on their lead. The Cavaliers had a 12-point edge by the end of the third quarter, and the Blazers couldn't find a way to change the pace and cut into Kennedy's lead. A five-point outburst by senior co-captain Cate Rassman cut the deficit to eight with a little over three minutes left to play, but Kennedy refused to let Blair chip away any further, and they dominated the stretch run to secure the victory.
Blair's half-court offense matched up well against Kennedy's defense, getting solid production from the forward position. Junior Ebony Winfield provided a huge lift off the bench with ten points and four rebounds, while senior co-captain Sara Pierce contributed to the Blazers' post presence with five points and five boards. Rassman grabbed 11 rebounds and led all Blazer scorers with 14 points, but it was her perimeter play and that of the rest of the team that disappointed. Coach James Mogge said he considers his team generally to be a good shooting squad, but tonight the iron was unkind as Blair couldn't get their jump shots to fall. Rassman attributed the poor shooting to early season excitement and eagerness. "It was our first game and we were rushing our shots," said Rassman. "We have to improve our use of the shot clock and play with more patience."
And while Kennedy didn't shoot particularly well from outside either, they were able to set up easy lay-ups and interior shot attempts with their fast break. The Blazers employed a full-court press throughout the game which was, at times effective, but eventually tiring. A weary Blair squad gave up numerous transition baskets at crucial times. Said Rassman, "The fast break lay-ups they got off our press killed us."
Mogge admitted the press led to some easy buckets. "It takes a while for the press to become effective, and we need to get in better shape to play that kind of defense."
Senior co-captain Jessica Dubose, however, credited the press for its ability to force ill-advised shots. "The press wasn't meant necessarily to create steals. The press was meant to slow them down and make them take bad shots," said Dubose
In addition to shaky transition defense, the Blazer's guard play was inconsistent. Blair relied on Williams, playing in her first varsity game, to manage the offense against a hard-pressing Kennedy squad. Williams, perhaps suffering from jitters or inexperience, had trouble keeping the ball away from the aggressive Cavalier defense in the early going. However, as the game progressed, she settled down and was able to use some flashy ball-handling skills to beat the press and set up her teammates. It was a tumultuous beginning to a promising young career, but Williams finished with 10 points and seemed to be growing increasingly comfortable in her new offense.
Dubose was a more consistent contributor at guard, adding eight points and leading the team with six assists. Both Dubose and Williams will try to fill the void left by stand out point guard Brittany Higgins who graduated last year.
Rassman said it was difficult adjusting to a new point guard, but she anticipates chemistry will develop between the new teammates as the season progresses. Mogge agreed that, although the result wasn't what he had hoped for, Blair's tenacity tonight showed that his young squad holds great potential. "They stepped up and gave it full effort. I think it will only get better."
Avi Wolfman-Arent. Avi Wolfman-Arent has been called many things: super genius, mega hunk and an all around cool guy; but through the praise he has remained down-to-earth and humble. At a muscular five feet nine inches he may seem intimidating when striding down Blair Boulevard, but when … More »