Sherwood snaps 12-game win streak; Blazers rebound to beat Whitman
The boys' basketball team continued to sputter offensively without injured point guard Cyril Djoukeng. Fortunately, another strong performance from senior shooting guard Ellis Yeadon and stout interior defense were enough to overcome the Whitman Vikings 42-41.
After losing their 12-game winning streak to Sherwood on Feb 5, the Blazers (16-3, 11-1) were looking to bounce back against the typically weak Vikings (9-10, 5-7). Blair, however, struggled for points for the second time this week.
Despite being a much faster team, the Blazers were unable to get their usual fast-break points as the Vikings played a disciplined 1-2-2 zone defense. Blair was also unsuccessful in feeding players in the paint as the Vikings quickly collapsed on any entry pass.
The only Blazer able to consistently get good looks at the basket was Yeadon, who had a team-high 19 points. Whereas Blair's other players had trouble penetrating to the basket, Yeadon, the team's leading scorer with over 15 points per game, consistently beat the first defender off of the dribble and knocked down a mid-range jumper before other Vikings came to help out. "We spread the floor out wide, because we knew that they couldn't stay with us one-on-one. My teammates set picks to get me open and when I got the ball I knew they couldn't check me," said Yeadon.
Yeadon was particularly good after halftime as he scored Blair's first 12 points in the second half, including all ten Blazer points in the third quarter. He did not get much support. Senior forward Chijioke Anyanwu dropped 11, including seven of ten free throws in the fourth quarter to cement the win, but no other Blazer scored more than four points.
Much of Blair's early success came from its aggressive perimeter defense. The Blazers held returning 4A State Champion Magruder High School without a three-pointer earlier this season. Against Whitman, however, Blair failed to stop the outside shot. The Vikings hit four three pointers, including three by shooting guard Dan Englestad.
Englestad was particularly difficult to handle. The junior scored a game-high 23 points and was the main reason that Whitman stayed with the Blazers. No other Viking had more than five points. "That kid was their whole offense," said junior forward Jamie Platky. "We knew that he was going to be the one shooting, but he still got his shot off."
While the perimeter defense was soft, Blair was able to shutdown Whitman's inside offense. The Vikings, who were without star center A.J. Burton due to a broken hand, were unable to get anything out of their front court offensively and quickly abandoned any attempt to get the ball into the post.
In two games without Djoukeng, who is as good a passer as there is in Montgomery County, Blair has been futile offensively. The Blazers scored only 44 points in the loss to Sherwood and only 42 against the Vikings. More troubling is that Blair's once diverse scoring attack has become more dependent on Yeadon and Anyanwu as Djoukeng's replacements have proven less effective in distributing the ball.
Djoukeng's fractured wrist is especially ill-timed as there are only three games left before playoffs. While the team is optimistic about his return, there is no certainty as to when he will be back.
Even with a 17-point performance by Burton in Blair's previous meeting with the Vikings on Jan 5, Djoukeng's 11 points and seven assists enabled Blair to build a 30 point lead, compared with the narrow one-point margin on Feb 8.
Blair's former starting center Bert Williams was absent from the game on Feb 8 due to ineligibility.
Liam Bowen. Liam Bowen has loved sports, baseball in particular, since he saw Jeff Ballard pitch for the Orioles in the late-80s. When he isn't on the beat, Bowen ties up his daytimes with his misguided and entirely unrealistic dream to play some sort of advanced baseball … More »