Blazers drop third straight in home loss


Dec. 12, 2009, 3:55 p.m. | By Gardi Royce | 14 years, 6 months ago

"Hard fought, physical" contest not enough for Blair to beat Panthers


NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, Dec. 11 –

Coming off two home losses, the Blazers (0-3) stepped up their game to compete with the Paint Branch Panthers (2-1). But after playing well throughout the first three quarters, the Blazers were unable to maintain the intensity in the fourth quarter and fell to the Panthers 46-52.

Senior Cameron Reed jumps to block Paint Branch offense. Photo courtesy of Lorena Kowalewski.

The Blazers battled hard all game. They fought back from a six-point deficit to end the third quarter with a tie, 34-34, and came into the final period locked in a fourth quarter showdown. With a rotating line up, the Blazers' defense created turnovers and denied the Panthers any easy shots. Unquestionably their best game of the season, the Blazers looked to star players to carry the team.

Juniors Ethan Brown, Pepe Koite and senior Ben Hukill were crucial to the Blazers' success, pouring in 30 points collectively. Head coach Mark DeStefano commended these Blazers for working hard and playing by the rules. "Ben, Ethan and Pepe were great. Ben and Ethan were playing within their roles, which are exactly what we needed from them. Pepe fought hard in practice and earned his playing time. They showed us what they are capable of and that's what we need everyone to do - everyone has to be ready to play," DeStefano said.

Previous opponents had been able to attack the rim with ease, but the Blazers took their defense up a notch against the Panthers. Lead by junior Charles Ruffin's tenacity, Blair defense demonstrated their strong base and energy in the first half. When the Panthers' 6'7" center Rycourt Macauley sprinted down the court and took off for what looked to be a hard dunk, senior captain Cameron Reed epitomized Blair's fight mentality. As the imposing Paint Branch center flew in to dunk on Reed, the 6'0 point guard launched himself at Macauley. He overpowered the larger player with a resounding block.

But the Panthers kept Reed in check, limiting the crucial offensive player to only four points for the game.

Though Blair defense played a great game, assistant coach Cedric Boatman said that the biggest factor preventing Blazers success was resilience, which will become easier as the season progresses. "We didn't lose because we were tired. We lost because we lacked the mental toughness required to close out a game like this. Experience is a big thing because this team lost a lot of seniors last year and we gotta learn how act in these tough situations," he said.

Senior Dennis Mesidor attempts to pass while being closely defended. Photo courtesy of Lorena Kowalewski.

Another key for Blair will be whether they can continually attack the basket and not settle for jump shots. Settling for mid-range jumpers put the Blazers at a disadvantage and prevented many second chance opportunities. Against Kennedy, the Blazers pounded the paint and got to the line 27 times. But they rarely attacked against the Panthers, shooting only 11 free throws and making nine of them.

The Panthers' 6'7" center Rycourt Macauley posed another new obstacle. "This was the first time we played against a big guy," DeStefano said. But the coach believes the experience was beneficial. "We gotta learn how to play big because some teams have 17 guys out there just as tall as [Macauley]," he said. Richard Montgomery's team, for example, has seven players who are six feet or over.

Overall, this game was the best basketball contest the Blazers have played this season. DeStefano attributes their improvement to increased efforts during practice. "We're getting better and they're working hard in practice. All the credit goes to them for coming out and working hard to get better," he said. This intensity is something Blair hopes to bring to the court next week when the team faces Richard Montgomery in a 4A showdown.

Boatman also recognizes that the Blazers are listening to coach instructions, which will allow them to continue to improve. "Both coach DeStefano and I have the attention of the team...If they listen to what we tell them and we keep doing what we're supposed to, we're gonna be a tough team down the road," he said.

Blair's next home game is against Wheaton High School on Monday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.

Editor's note: Mark DeStefano is the adviser for Silver Chips Online.



Tags: Boys Basketball

Gardi Royce. Gardi hails from the wine country in California. He is a surfer who enjoys calm nights on a peaceful sunset sailing in a boat. He is a amateur blackjack dealer who spends his free time in dark casinos with old men. His favorite book is … More »

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