DEC. 19, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM-
Last year's 7-15 team ended its disappointing year with a twenty-point blowout to hot-shooting Damascus. This year, with a new coach and a new team, the Blazers avenged that loss, 65-60, with defensive play that was positively inspired.
The Blazers are not the best-shooting team in the land: In this game Blair shot 33 percent from the floor and was just 14-for-30 from the free throw line. But that's just not the way Blair plays. Instead, the Blazers forced Damascus into 34 turnovers and constantly worried the Hornet's attack. Senior forward Mike Jones led the team with six steals, and senior center Doojy Pierre-Louis had three blocks.
Meanwhile, the Blazers did an excellent job of protecting the ball and creating opportunities against Damascus' zone. Blair turned the ball over just 16 times in the game. Junior point guard Rashad Tollonge had a game-high six assist. The team had 14 total, an impressive sum considering how few points were scored. Also, senior power forward Charles Atakora (19 points, five rebounds)had a monster game from distance, deconstructing the Hornets' zone by taking jump shot after jump shot and forcing Damascus to bring its big men out to guard him.
"We're doing better than last year because we've jelled a bit more," said Assistant Coach Wendell Hall. "This year guys are playing in their role. No one is trying to step out and be the hero. If we need a guy to be a defensive stopper, he's a defensive stopper. If we need a guy to grab rebounds, he grabs rebounds."
Hall offered up junior guard Brandon Curry as an example. Curry was a dominating scorer on the JV team, but has stepped into Coach Dale Miller's new role for him as a tenacious defender extremely well and has restricted his shot attempts in favor of distributing the ball to players like Atakora and Smith.
Blair's shooting was a bit of a concern for the coaches, although the Blazers seem merely to be inconsistent. In the game against Watkins Mill Dec. 16, for example, the Blazers shot 85 percent from the line.
The first six points of the game and the entire first quarter belonged to the Blazers, who led 15-8 at its end. The second period was a little more evenly matched: Damascus drew to within two early on before going down by a score of 26-21 at the half.
Early in the second half, the Hornets gave the Blazers a taste of their own medicine: Damascus scored the first seven before Blair settled in and began making shots. The teams changed leads four times in the third quarter before Blair took the lead for good at 38-37. The Hornets came back periodically, drawing to within one point twice and to within three twice, but the Blazers never relinquished the lead. Smith came off the bench in the fourth quarter in foul trouble and scored 10 of his 12 points then to keep the Blazers afloat. He also snatched seven boards.
"We're now gaining some momentum as a team," said Hall. "We're going into every game now expecting to win because we know we can."
Blair looks to avenge another loss from last season in its next game, at perennial powerhouse Magruder on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.
Luke Bostian. Luke Bostian is a senior in CAP and has nothing much to say for himself. Well, actually, that's a lie. Luke has a lot to say for himself and says it all the time. So he won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say … More »