Boys' basketball outlasts Bengals in overtime for playoff victory

March 2, 2008, midnight | By Greg Kohn | 13 years, 10 months ago

Blazers advance to second round on clutch free throws and intense defense


The boys' varsity basketball team overcame the Blake Bengals in the first round of the regional playoffs on Saturday afternoon, winning 56-52 in an overtime thriller. The Blazers, now 6-17 on the season but riding a three-game winning streak, will travel to Wootton on Tuesday for the second round of the playoffs.

After squandering a ten-point lead in the third quarter, the Blazers found themselves down for the first time with seven minutes left, 33-32. This was not a new situation for Blair; all year, the team has dominated the first three quarters of play just to fall short in the fourth. This time, cheap fouls and Blair's inability to grab defensive rebounds had allowed Blake back into the game.

However, in a new trend for the Blazers, Blake would never extend their lead to more than four. Between senior co-captain and guard Milton Colquehoun and junior forward Michael McClain, Blair hit eight consecutive clutch free throws to regain the lead, 40-36.

With less than three minutes remaining, both teams visibly turned up the energy, vying to extend their seasons. A presence all game, junior center Leon Sampson sent a Bengal shot attempt in the other direction, which senior guard Quentin Snively turned into two points. Blair's cohesiveness was highlighted on a brilliant combination, where McClain sent the ball to Snively at the top of the key, who quickly found senior forward Rex Jarrett wide open for the lay-in for a strong 45-40 lead at the 40-second mark.

But Blake responded with a daggering three-pointer, only their second of the game. Then, two consecutive Blair turnovers and an ill-timed flagrant foul found Blake with the ball, the score tied at 45-45, and the clock stopped at 17.4 seconds.

"It was nerve wracking," McClain said after the game. "We were winning, then we lost the lead, then we gained it back. We've had trouble all year doing that - and suddenly we had to do it again."

On the inbounds, Blake drove to the basket where Sampson was waiting. He rejected the attempt and the game went into overtime. In the extra period, Colquehoun and McClain again executed from the line, with senior center Issy Melton adding a couple as well. Blair built up an eerily similar 54-49 lead with 31 seconds left, but this time Blake's three-point attempt was off the mark. The Blazers held on, 56-52.

"It's great to be on this side of such an intense game," said Colquehoun, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "It's just great."

Head coach Mark DeStefano thought Blair's defense and ability to make plays ultimately foiled the Bengals. "We had our share of mistakes, but when we really needed to make a play, we did," DeStefano said. "And keeping a team like Blake 17 points in the first half really says something about how our team played defense today."

In the first quarter, Blair jumped to an early lead. Sampson, who put up 14 points, established his presence early, dominating on the offensive boards and repeatedly giving the Blazers second chances. Melton worked the paint as well, driving hard to the basket. Meanwhile Blake was egregious from beyond the arc, missing all 13 attempts in the first half. The Blazers led 16-8 at the end of the quarter.

Later in the first half, Blake tried to increase the speed of the game by running fast breaks. Blair had no difficulties responding to the faster tempo, but suffered on the defensive boards, allowing Blake too many second chances. Colquehoun hit a big three to extend Blair's lead to 21-12, but a short Bengal run resulted in a 22-17 halftime score.

The Blazers mounted their largest lead, 29-19, on a half-court pass from McClain to an open Melton under the basket. But Blake continued to capitalize on offensive rebounds and Blair turnovers to cut Blair's lead to 29-27. The Blazers held a slim four-point lead going into the fourth quarter, and just one minute in found themselves trailing for the first time in the game. But clutch play down the stretch ensured that the Blazers would proceed to the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Blair will play at Wootton at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The teams met once during the regular season in a game where Wootton slightly edged the Blazers, 62-57. "We know what's in front of us," DeStefano finished.

The Blazers' second playoff game is at Wootton on Tuesday, March 4 at 7 p.m.

Greg Kohn. Greg Kohn is a native Marylander. He's lived in one house his whole life, played soccer since before he could talk, and loves to chant "09" when it's really quiet. He hates being called Gregory, and he wishes he were more organized. He was a … More »

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