Boys' basketball slays Gladiators in second-half rout

Dec. 13, 2008, midnight | By Greg Kohn | 13 years, 1 month ago

Blair triples first-half score, improves to 3-0


A year ago, Blair's varsity boys' basketball team developed an unfortunate pattern: establish an early lead only to have the game determined in the final moments. But for the Blazers this season, the trend has been quite the opposite – for the third game in a row Blair (3-0) has pushed for the win in an explosive second half, their latest including 43 points before capping off a dominant 63-45 victory at rival Northwood (0-2) Friday night.

Senior co-captain and center Leon Sampson led the resurgence with 11 third-quarter points. "In the first half, it felt like we were just going through the motions," Sampson said after his game-high 18-point performance. "You could really feel the difference when we turned up the intensity for the rest of the game."

Like their previous two starts, Blair's first half was mediocre at best and they quickly dug themselves into a seven-point hole. An improved second quarter, however, allowed the Blazers to creep back within a bucket by halftime, 22-20. The second half, though, was all Blair.

Moments into third quarter, senior co-captain and forward Mike McClain gave the visitors their first lead of the game. Then Sampson took over. Grabbing offensive rebounds and working the paint for easy baskets, Sampson jumpstarted a 23-point quarter for the Blazers.

"The biggest asset about [Sampson] is his agility and ability to get up and down the court," head coach Mark DeStefano explained. Sampson exemplified this midway through the third quarter, taking the ball up the court himself in a fast break before dishing to junior guard Cameron Reed for the lay-in.
"He gets better every time he plays," DeStefano said.

The intensified Blazers found success on defense as well, limiting the Gladiators to just three baskets. Sampson ended the quarter with an exclamation, grabbing a pass from Reed and powerfully dunking for a 43-29 Blair advantage. The dunk was Sampson's first of the season and the lone one of the game.

"I'm starting to realize we can really turn up the intensity in the second half," DeStefano said. "I'd prefer we start the game that way, but I'll take what I can get."

In stark contrast to last season, Blair not only kept their lead, but lengthened it in continued offensive dominance through the fourth quarter. Senior forward Dayne Bolt, who didn't appear in the season opener and saw only a few minutes on the court against Kennedy, showed his superior strength and athleticism by scoring in the face of several Northwood defenders. Bolt had seven points in the final quarter and received help from Reed and McClain, both of whom found success by driving hard to the basket.

Northwood limited the damage by effectively pressing and converting free throws, which accounted for 10 of their 16 fourth-quarter points. But in the end the Gladiators could not string together any offensive success with defensive stops and were unable to lessen the deficit. Blair held the ball for the final thirty seconds to finish the win, 63-45.

Blair found support from the bench as well, with Bolt, senior forward Neil Corran, senior forward Josh Gordon and Reed all logging in minutes. "We are discovering we have depth," DeStefano summarized. Bolt led the subs with 11 points.

"Our confidence as a team is building," DeStefano said. "And that's when this gets fun."

Blair missed their first six field goals to start the game, allowing Northwood to build an early 7-1 lead. Sampson seemed to reignite the lethargic Blazers on a four-point play, in which he drew the and-one, gathered the rebound off his own foul shot and scored again, but Northwood responded with a three-pointer to keep a 12-7 lead.

The Gladiators led 16-9 going into the second quarter, but Blair finally found their shot on a 9-3 run that cut the deficit to one. More importantly, the Blazers found a defensive rhythm that held Northwood to six points and just a single field goal in the quarter.

Blair hosts the defending divisional champion Wootton Patriots next Tuesday, in which the visitors will surely seek revenge for the early exit the Blazers handed them in a playoff upset last year.

Blair's next home game is against Wootton on Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.
Editor's note: Mark DeStefano is an adviser for Silver Chips Online

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 »

Show comments


No comments.

Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.