Sophomore guard Danny Canary scores 21 in win
Down 39-38 in the fourth quarter, the Blazers (1-0) were just on the cusp of breaking through against Gaithersburg (0-1). The game had been tough up until then for Blair, as they were down by five at the half. All that changed with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. Back to back threes from junior guard Trey Wainwright and sophomore Danny Canary put the Blazers up by four, their largest lead of the game so far. The Blazers never looked back, as they closed out strong in a 67-48 rout of the visiting Trojans.
Both teams opened up the game with sloppy play, turning the ball over several times. Senior captain Julian Smith-Jones believed that the team will have to tighten up their ball security in future games, "We need to commit less turnovers next game,” Smith-Jones said. Gaithersburg capitalized on these mistakes early on, as Gaithersburg guard Mateen Etheridge was able to put up 12 first half points, helping the Trojans build an early lead.
Despite the tough first half, the Blazers got a leg up from junior Raymond Burtnick, who converted a layup as he was fouled with 4:48 left in the half. The momentum was short lived as the Trojans scored off of a Blair turnover with 3:28 left in the half, going up, 20-16. Gaithersburg maintained their lead through half, and they entered the break with a 23-18 lead.
Whatever head coach Damon Pigrom said to his team at halftime worked, because the Blazers looked like a totally different team after the intermission. Junior captain Damar Bess talked about the Blazers' halftime adjustments, "Coach got us in as a team at halftime," he said. "We knew we had to stay calm." Smith-Jones believed that the key halftime adjustment was the Blazers' ability to change up their pace. "Coach told us to slow it down, we had to play our game," he said. "Last year, we would come out flat at halftime."
Fueled by 16 second half points from Canary, the Blazers were able to put away the pesky Trojans in the third and fourth quarters. "In the first half, I was nervous. At halftime, I knew I had to step up," Canary said. And step up he did. Canary used two of his four three pointers to pace the Blazers in the second half. Blair outscored Gaithersburg, 49-25, after the break.
After Canary and Wainwright's back to back threes with 6:50 to go, the Blazers were cool at the line, hitting their free throws to secure the victory. Senior captain Justin Kung hit two clutch free throws with 3:56 remaining to extend Blair's lead to 50-41. The icing on the cake was when Bess hit Smith-Jones with a nifty pass for the layup with 1:30 left in the game.
Although the win was nice, coach Pigrom believed that there is still much to work on. "We have to work on everything," he said. Despite the harsh words, coach praised his team for their strong work ethic. "It helped that we're in better shape than them. Our guys work hard. Because of this we were able to wear them down at the end," Pigrom said.
Going forward, the team would like to continue to pack the stands. "We love the big crowd. I was writing on the board all day today, trying to get everyone to come out," Smith-Jones said. The way the Blazers played tonight, they can expect quite a few more W's, as well as continued support from their fellow classmates in the crowd.
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