Blair unable to make up for first-half deficit
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, Feb. 10 –
Blair boys' basketball (5-13) fell short to Paint Branch (16-3) on Tuesday night, 56-43. Although shaky through the first half, the Blazers kept up in the second half and mounted a fourth quarter rally which brought them within seven points of the division champion Panthers.
Head coach Mark DeStefano said his team struggled most on defense. "We scrapped at defense with recovering rebounds and defensive transitions," DeStefano said. "Those were the two areas which Paint Branch took advantage of."
Blair exploded out of the starting gate, stunning Paint Branch so that they were unable to score a field goal within the first five minutes. "When we play good zone defense we make it hard for teams to get good shots," DeStefano said. Paint Branch, however, regained the momentum of the game, accumulating thirteen unanswered points in the second quarter until senior co-captain Leon Sampson hit a layup.
Paint Branch outscored Blair in the second quarter by 12 points for a 30-17 halftime lead. Senior co-captain Mike McClain returned to the game in the third quarter in a big way after missing much of the first half due to three early fouls. He jumpstarted Blair's lethargic offense, posting 10-second half points and leading the Blazers with 14 on the night. Paint Branch recuperated responded with their own strong offense and Blair was unable to gain any ground as both teams scored 13 points in the quarter, leaving the Panthers ahead, 43-30.
With eight minutes left to play, the Blazers began to rally. Senior co-captain Wayne Henderson hit two consecutive three-pointers, bringing the Blazers within seven points. Blair continued their improved offense of the second half, but were unable to make enough defensive stops to make a run. At one point, three straight Blazer fouls negated a comeback attempt. Paint Branch held on to win by a margin of 13, 56-43.
Sampson, who led Blair on defense with eight rebounds, attributed the loss to defensive transitions. "Defensive transitions killed us tonight," Sampson said. "We've got to get the ball back when we're on D."
DeStefano mentioned room for improvement in Blair's defense as well. "We need to do a better job on rebounds and with our half-court defense," DeStefano said.
Blair's loss to Paint Branch on Tuesday is their third straight loss since beating Sherwood on Feb. 2. DeStefano said sloppy mistakes have been killing the Blazers this season, such as turnovers. "Things will be going great and then we'll turn the ball over," DeStefano said about Blair, who had 22 turnovers Tuesday night. "You can't do that and still expect to win the game."
The Blazers take on Quince Orchard on Friday and are anticipating tough competition, according to Henderson. "They are going to pressure the ball like crazy," Henderson said. "Like, every single play."
DeStefano said his strategy for taking on the Cougars on Friday is to play aggressive ball. "If we sit back and let them come, they'll override us," DeStefano said. "We've got to attack their pressure."
Blair's next home game is against Gaithersburg on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.
Editor's note: Mark DeStefano is an adviser for Silver Chips Online
Jeremy Gradwohl. Jeremy is a good, upstanding citizen. He likes the city of Takoma Park, baseball, good music and the Orioles back in the day when they had Cal Ripken Jr. Nature also plays a big part in his life. More »