Third-quarter burst isn't enough to push Blair to second-round win
MAR. 1, WHITMAN-
The Blazers entered the second round of the playoffs in high spirits after a resounding victory over twelfth-seeded Quince Orchard, but four seed Whitman proved to be much stiffer opposition and after a fierce back-and-forth contest the Vikings ended up 45-38 victors.
Blair showed stretches of defensive and offensive flair throughout the night, especially in a 13-0 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters, but were not able to consistently control the momentum of the game. The Vikings made Blair pay for any carelessness, penetrating the Blazers' defense on quick, pinpoint passing and answering any fouls with deadly accuracy at the line.
Seniors Brittany Higgins, Jawana Henderson and Vicky Dean all gave solid performances to keep Blair in it; but, with the exception of Higgins with 13, the Blazers were not able to consistently put points on the board.
The Blazers were down 27-16 after a lackluster first half, including a four-point second period, and started the second in much the same fashion. Blair bungled transition passes, consistently handing Whitman the ball with an open road to the basket, and continued to shoot blanks at the line. The girls' foul shooting held them back all night, sharper free-throws would have made a big difference down the stretch.
Blair was getting repeatedly smothered by the Vikings on offense as the third wound down, and then they suddenly broke out. After two periods with no inside penetration, Henderson started grabbing points in the paint like mad. Everything started clicking for Blair on both ends of the court: hard pressing shut down the Viking ball carriers and the smooth offense did a stellar job of distributing the ball to Blair's scoring threats. The whole squad started connecting on transition passes, cutting through the Whitman defense and getting the ball to Dean and Higgins who led an 11-0 run to close the third, putting the Blazers within four, 35-31.
The offensive explosion definitely caught the Vikings off-guard, but they managed to recover with more of their consistent scoring at the line and dependable, compared to Blair's, outside shooting. Whitman stepped up with rough defense, Blair caught the raw end of some scrambles for the ball and Blair slowly ceded control of the game back to the Vikings as the fourth went on. Blair's offensive blunders on simple shots and passes gave Whitman the opportunity they needed to lengthen their lead.
Foul shooting put Whitman back up by six, and the Vikings looked like they were about to put it out of reach. But Higgins responded with a textbook outside jumper, swishing a dagger of a three. Unfortunately the rest of the Blazers could not summon the offensive pluck they needed to pull even in the final minute. Higgins effortlessly drove for another two as time ticked away, but she wasn't getting the help she needed. Whitman put their last points on the board on a court-length assist, sealing it at 45-38.
Blair had flashes of great team play, but could not keep it together long enough to secure a win. In the end, Whitman's cleaner passing and shooting, as well as their steady production at the line, made the difference. While this season may have ended on a sour note, there is a lot of hope for Coach James Mogge's second season with the team next winter. The Blazers have to improve on their fundamentals and teamwork, but with leaders like versatile junior star Cate Rassman, backed up by talented juniors like Monique Eldridge and Sara Pierce, they have a solid framework to build on.
Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »