Blazers outlast Rockets in late-game showdown

Dec. 15, 2010, 11:23 p.m. | By Gardi Royce | 13 years, 6 months ago

Boys' basketball survives late-game scare to win first game of season, 40-34


After a disappointing start to the season, the Blazers (1-3) capitalized on a poor showing by Richard Montgomery (0-4) to secure their first win, and home opener of the season. Led by junior standout Tucker Canary, the Blazers were able to jump out to an early lead and hang on for the win, despite a fourth-quarter charge by the Rockets.

Junior Tucker Canary dishes to Dalonte Gaskin for an assist Photo courtesy of Andrew Kirwan.

Prior to the game, assistant coach Cedric Boatman predicted the game would be decided by whether the Blazers could establish themselves on three core fundamentals. "The ability to rebound, play defense and get to the free throw line is what it comes down to. Accomplish two of these things and we win the game," he said. The Blazers were able to do just that; they held the Rockets to a season low 34 points, and improved their rebounding and interior defense.

With senior guard Charles Ruffin sidelined with a broken hand (expected to return on December 22), the Blazers looked to floor general Canary to carry the team. Switching to the point guard position only this year, Canary was entered lead role without much experience. Yet in his third straight game scoring double figures (15 points), he proved why head coach Mark DeStefano has given him the keys to the offense. With 26 seconds left in the game and the Blazers up by four, it was Canary who went to the free-throw line with the game hanging in the balance. His calm demeanor belied any nervousness he may have felt as he iced the game and put the Blazers ahead for good.

Coming out of the half, the Blazers held a commanding 25-10 lead after playing some of their best offensive basketball this season. With the Rockets deploying a full court press, Blair had been able to break traps using their speed and court awareness. Using Canary and junior guard Justin Shack, the Blazers were able to bring the ball up quickly and set up easy transition opportunities.

The Blazers shot well enough to earn a hard fought win over the Rockets, here a Blazer takes a tough shot while being defended. Photo courtesy of Andrew Kirwan.

DeStefano attributed their first-half success to the speed and court awareness of Blair's guards. "We know that teams are going to press and we have to be able to develop spacing and create shots. We were able to break [RM's] press tonight because we were quicker than they were," he said. But what seemed to be turning into a home opening rout quickly turned into a competitive game.

As soon as the third quarter started, the Rockets began to pressure the ball on defense and defend on the high screens that the Blazers were setting. While their transition play had been successful in the first half, the Blair squad found themselves at a loss as the Rockets began shooting themselves back into the game. Not finding success in the transition game, Blair turned to its half court motion offense, which relies on player movement, screens and creating space for open shots. Yet the Blazers were frequently out of scoring positions, and wasted opportunities to put away the game. With the momentum seemingly switching sides, the Blazers looked to their bench to find the spark.

Veteran player senior Lucas Babinec has established himself as the heart of the Blazer team by specializing in the dirty work. Coming off the bench, Babinec provides an instant jolt of energy, whether it's diving on the ground for loose balls, or banging inside for a hard-fought rebound, he has proven to be a crucial part of the Blazer success.

Senior Lucas Babinec looks to push the ball up court, scoring eight points in a gutsy win at home Photo courtesy of Andrew Kirwan.

Scoring a season high eight points, he made use of his coaches' decision to play him late in the game. As the fourth quarter reached its midpoint and the Rockets seemed to be taking control, Babinec came through with a tough basket to maintain the lead, then sprinted down the court and blocked a shot by the Rockets. Boatman commended Babinec on his tough play. "I thought Lucas had a really good game, getting in there and giving us that boost of energy we needed to win," he said.

While Babinec proved crucial to the Blazers' success, in the end it was a combination of Babinec, Canary and junior Dalonte Gaskin. Coming off a 23-point explosion against Paint Branch, Gaskin was prepared to receive more pressure on defense. Despite the added pressure, he still managed to score 12 points, grabbing critical rebounds in the final quarter. With 1:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, Blair's home gym had the buzz of a playoff showdown, with each team waiting to see who would falter first. As the Rockets ran down the court, Babinec took a hard charge, regaining the ball and pumping up the home fans. Holding on to a slim two point lead, Gaskin grabbed a game-saving rebound, sending him to the line with the chance to seal the game.

After making only one of the two free throws, there was still a chance for the Rockets to win. Yet the balance of the game would fall into the hands of Canary, who was fouled with a little over 26 seconds remaining in the game. Heading to the line, Canary's cool attitude seemed unnatural in such a pressure-filled situation. But after calmly knocking down the game clinching free throws, there was no doubting the stocky and talented floor general.

Heading into Friday's home game against Einstein, senior journeyman Babinec summed up the challenges awaiting the Blazers. "We need to work on our half court offense first and foremost. We had better communication and defense but if we want to win, we have to start executing and playing smart," he said.

The boys' varsity basketball team will play their home game on Friday, Dec. 17 against Einstein High School 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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