FEB. 10, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM-
After losing five games in a row and three players to academic ineligibility, the Blazers rebounded with a 55-49 victory over the Richard Montgomery Rockets. It was the Rockets who started Blair's slide three weeks ago in a tense match that nearly ended up in a fight between students from the two schools. That game was the start of the most difficult stretch of the Blazers' schedule: They played Springbrook, Magruder and Blake (twice), all of whom are ranked among the Washington Post's top 20 high school basketball teams.
Because of the losses of juniors Makonnen Brown, Branden Curry and Rahim Mercurius due to grades, Coach Dale Miller was forced to make some lineup changes, bringing up a JV starter to replace Brown and Curry at the point and giving some former bench players significant time on the court. The JV player, sophomore John Orr, looked especially promising late in last night's game, but Blair got also got a strong contribution from junior Nick Hetrick, who had six points.
"We felt the losses of Branden and Makonnen particularly because it leaves [senior] Darryl Hall as our only point guard with experience. But at the same time it was fortunate for us, because it gave some guys who have been working hard in practice all year some real playing time, and they showed up," said Assistant Coach Wendell Hall.
Hetrick and Orr were the most visible beneficiaries of the team's academic losses. Hetrick, usually a fourth-quarter player, came into the game in the first period and seemed to gain confidence in his new role. He played great defense, helping hold the Rockets' leading scorer, Steve Weedon, to just six points.
Orr, meanwhile, came up big in the second half. "We were down 29-20 at halftime and looking for somebody to play. We decided to make some changes. John played great," said Hall. Orr ran the point efficiently and played tough D. He capped his varsity debut with a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave the Blazers the momentum they needed to close out the win.
Blair started the game slowly, falling behind 19-9 in the third quarter, and the team was once again poor from the free throw line, making just 9-of-17 charity shots. That statistic turned out not to hurt the Blazers, though, because they played such a clean game that the Rockets were only able to attempt 8 free throws. Because of unselfish play and some great efforts from untested players, though, the Blazers were able to gain some momentum heading into the last games of the season.
"We weathered the hard part [of the season]," said Hall. "Now we need to win our next few games to head into the playoffs with some momentum. Some teams peak early in the season. [These losses] have really been the best thing for us because I think that we can come out of them strong and hopefully peak at the right time."
The Blazers start the home stretch of their season this Friday, Feb. 13, at Gaithersburg. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m.
Click here to stream the Blair Sports Network's highlights from this game.
Luke Bostian. Luke Bostian is a senior in CAP and has nothing much to say for himself. Well, actually, that's a lie. Luke has a lot to say for himself and says it all the time. So he won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say … More »