FEB. 8, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM —
Those who believe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a product of fiction never watched Blair's girls basketball team. In the first half of tonight's contest against the Churchill Bulldogs the Blazers hardly resembled the team that lost to the same opponent by 19, there offense was smooth, their defense smothering, and their poise unwavering. But as the fourth quarter dawned the solid effort quickly deteriorated into a turnover-laden collapse, and the Bulldogs capitalized. The late-game spurt was enough to propel Churchill to a 60-54 victory and drop the Blazers to 5-14 on the year.
After breaking a seven game losing streak with a victory at Magruder on Monday, Blair looked determined to build on the big win. They opened up with an explosive offensive performance. Senior co-captain Cate Rassman scored nine of her game-high 27 points in the opening period, and her three-pointer with 3:13 left put Blair up 13-5 in the early going. A Churchill run at the end of the quarter pulled the Bulldogs within two at 16-14 as the period ended, but Blair looked firmly in control.
The Blazers truly established command in the second quarter. They began the period on a 12-5 run that would produce a 28-19 advantage. The second quarter was highlighted by spectacular play from senior guard Janay Walker who was menace on defense, collecting steals and turning them into easy transition baskets. Walker, who has come on strong offensively in the last couple of contests, scored seven of her 13 points in the second session. A late Churchill run in the second quarter closed the gap to 28-23 at intermission, but the Blazers were satisfied going into the locker room with a solid advantage.
Blair started off strong in the second half, building the lead back to nine at 34-25 with 5:34 remaining. The Blazers, looked confident and determined to win their second game in a row, when the wheels began to fall off. Slowly Churchill chipped away at the nine-point advantage, the largest for either team on the night, and with 3:20 left had reduced the lead to 34-31. After a timeout by Coach James Mogge Blair responded with a brief spurt to push the advantage up to 40-32, but then the offense collapsed for good. Over the final two minutes of the third period the Blazers could only muster one basket and by the end of the quarter a comfortable lead had been cut to two at 42-40.
With panic beginning to set in Blair seemed to grow more uncomfortable at the onset of the fourth quarter. Churchill began the period on a 6-0 run that gave them their first lead since the first quarter. The once-balance Blazer offense began to rely on Rassman for production and a rash costly turnover allowed Churchill to remain in control throughout the final session. After the Bulldogs built the lead to eight at 54-46 with 3:02 remaining, the Blazers staged a final attempt at a comeback. A put back by Rassman capped a 6-0 spurt and brought the score to 54-52 with 1:24 left, but clutch free throw shooting by the Bulldogs put the game away. After Rassman fouled out with 20 seconds left the Blazers had little hope left as their senior leader sat idly by.
After the game Coach James Mogge seemed painfully dejected by a performance that saw 24 minutes of good basketball go for naught in 8 minutes of incredibly sloppy play. When asked about his team's repeated poor performances in the final quarter Mogge cited a lack of concentration. "When we get in pressure situations we don't respond well. We lose our focus," said Mogge, adding that Rassman is the only player who entered the season with any significant experience in close games at the varsity level.
Mogge also said the Blazers were not able to adjust their offensive set when Churchill applied a full court press in the second half. Mogge said Blair tried to make too many risky passes in breaking the press instead of making the safe pass and setting up the offense. Mogge attributed the imbalance in scoring distribution, Rassman and Walker combined for 50 of the 62 points, to the inability to slow down the pace in the second half. "If we just make the safe pass and set up the offense, we can distribute the ball," Mogge explained.
With two games remaining before playoffs the Blazers are left looking desperately for answer. Blair hopes to get some help from a thin bench that hasn't provided any offense all season. Mogge says wins the final two contests and a playoff win would be a great accomplishment for his team this year, and hopefully a finish they can build on next season.
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 »