Second-quarter shutout key in victory over Einstein
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, Dec. 6 –
Following several seasons of utter disappointment, Blair's varsity boys' basketball squad set a different tone for the program with a convincing season opening win against the Einstein Titans, 53-37.
The Blazers played aggressively up and down the court, pushing the ball into fast break opportunities and utilizing an intense zone defense. "Our defense tonight was outstanding," head coach Mark DeStefano said. "You've just got to be happy with a W."
Junior forward and DeMatha High School transfer Michael McClain led all scorers with 21 points. McClain made his move to Blair in the middle of August, so he missed all of summer training, but has not missed a beat. "My transition was easy because I came in knowing most of the players," he said. "The coach was very inviting, and we all shared a common goal – winning." McClain's older brother Matt was a vital member of last year's squad before graduating.
The Titans jumped out to a quick 6-4 lead in the first quarter, but the Blazers' impermeable defense guaranteed that it was the last time they would lead all game. After some initial miscommunication, the Blazers' offense ran smoothly, consistently hitting the open man for easy shots.
Senior forward Issy Melton and junior center Leon Sampson were Blair's main targets in the paint, where they laid the ball up easily and made Einstein pay at the line. Although the Blazers dominated at the free-throw line, going 16 for 21, Melton was limited in play after he picked up four fouls in the first quarter, but he still ended with six points. Sampson stepped up in the absence of Melton to post twelve.
But it was Blair's intensity on defense that sealed the strong win. Led by the ground-slapping senior forward Rex Jarrett and senior guard and co-captain Milton Colquehoun, Blair forced countless Titan turnovers. Both Jarrett and Sampson had powerful blocks, while all the Blazers contributed in ruthlessly pick-pocketing Einstein.
Blair extended its lead for good in the second quarter, when the offense ran away with an 11-0 streak for a 23-9 halftime advantage. The Blazers rebounded efficiently, grudging Einstein very few second chances on misses and using the momentum to lose the Titans in a quick-paced offense.
Einstein ended their drought on their first shot of the second half, but Blair senior co-captain and guard Joe Dubuche silenced the Titans with a deep three-pointer. Afterwards the teams traded points more evenly as Blair rushed shots and fouled too often.
Trailing 36-19, Einstein mustered a 6-0 run sparked by a long three. But the Blazers responded with six straight points of their own, the last of which senior guard Quentin Snively laid up on a fast break at the buzzer of the third quarter.
The Blazers' lead grew to a game-high 21 points midway through the fourth quarter before ending at a 53-37 final score.
A triumphant and promising start to their extended season, this win assures much more success to this year's team than last. "We're a much better functioning team than last year, but we still need to work and improve on a lot of minor details to perfect the game," Snively said.
Keeping their heads and hearts focused on the court, the hopeful team looks forward to a bright new season. "The important thing to do now is keep our composure and turn this momentum into a victory tomorrow at Kennedy," McClain finished.
The Blazers' next home game is Tuesday, Dec. 11 against Northwood at 7 p.m.
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