FEB. 17, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM-
Heading into their final two games of the season, the boys' varsity basketball team has a few things to smile about. The losses of junior standouts Makonnen Brown and Branden Curry to ineligibility appear to have been a blessing in disguise: The Blazers played more like a team than they have all season in tonight's 61-50 win over Wootton and former bench players are coming onto the court with more desire and cohesiveness than before second-quarter grades forced Brown and Curry, along with junior Rahim Mercurius, off the team.
The starters for tonight's game were juniors Nick Hedrick, Keenan Myers and Doojy Pierre-Louis, and seniors Perry Smith and Darryl Hall. The former two had seen limited action before the break but have filled their new, more prominent roles well. Sophomore JV sendup John Orr and junior Chris Wilhelm came in during the first period and made significant contributions to the team on both ends of the court.
Turnovers were a problem for the Blazers, who had 24 on the night, including a disturbing number during set offensive plays. But the Blazers made up for their ball control problems with tough defense. Hall had six steals and Pierre-Louis had four blocks to lead Blair in stopping the Patriots' attack. Blair's edge on the boards was also a high note: The Blazers outrebounded Wootton 35-26.
The brightest spot for the Blazers, though, was the team's apparent togetherness and unselfishness on the court. "It was a team effort," said Assistant Coach Wendell Hall. "Everyone who came off the bench contributed." On the offensive end, the Blazers again had trouble creating open shots and making good offensive choices. They were led by Smith, who had 14 points to go with his three steals, and Atakora, who had ten in the second half after sitting out the first two periods.
The Blazers led the entire game, from Smith's first free throw three minutes into the first quarter until the final buzzer sounded. Wootton coughed the ball up even more than Blair, registering 28 turnovers. The game was generally a fought-in-the-trenches, grind-it-out affair without much flair, but three tremendous dunks off steals, two by Atakora and one by Smith, put large exclamation points on the night and brought the modest crowd to its feet.
Orr was once again significant in the fourth quarter, getting a key steal and contributing a second clutch three-pointer. Early in the final period the Patriots had started a comeback and had drawn within five points of the Blazers. But Orr had victory on the brain and opened himself up for a pass in the corner. He drained the shot and Wootton's momentum was shattered.
The Blazers' next game is Feb. 20 at Whitman 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 »