Springbrook gives boys' basketball its first close contest

Jan. 19, 2002, midnight | By Ben Penn | 22 years, 4 months ago

Blazers hold off rallying Blue Devils, 53-52


The final minute of Blair's first 13 games has produced nothing but meaningless garbage time.

But in the 14th game, which happened to be played against archrival Springbrook High School, the Blazers (12-2, 8-0) were finally faced with a critical end-game situation and they managed to walk off the court with a nail-biting 53-52 victory, increasing their winning streak to nine games and their division lead to three games.

In a game in which the teams took turns going on hot streaks, the Blazers found themselves leading Springbrook (10-4, 5-3) 53-45 with 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But that is where Blair began to show its inexperience playing in tight situations.

First Springbrook put in an easy lay-up to reduce Blair's lead to six. At this point, all the Blazers needed to do was inbound the ball successfully and make free throws. However, the inbound pass to guard Ellis Yeadon, a senior, was lost out of bounds. Making matters worse, Yeadon began arguing the call to the official and was quickly given a technical foul, giving the Blue Devils two foul shots and possession of the ball afterwards.

After Springbrook converted one of two technical foul shots the score was 53-48, but the Devils then threw the ball away, forcing them to immediately foul Blair's point guard Cyril Djoukeng. The senior missed the front end of a one-and-one at the foul line, failing to ice the victory. Springbrook scored off of an offensive rebound with 8.0 seconds remaining and trimmed Blair's lead down to 53-50.

Once again Blair threw away the ensuing inbounds pass, this time giving Springbrook a wide-open basket, and suddenly the score was 53-52. The Blazers did not turn over the final inbounds pass and Yeadon hurled the ball into the air as the buzzer sounded.

"We haven't had a close game," said an elated Yeadon (15 points, six rebounds, three steals). "I think that's why we played poorly down the stretch, but hopefully we'll learn from this."

During Blair's previous eight games, all wins, the team has outscored opponents by an average margin of 17 points. This season's two closest games were eight-point victories over Springbrook on Dec 14 and over Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on Jan 16.

Blair Coach Jeff Newby was glad that his team finally had an opportunity to play a full 32 meaningful minutes. "Even in our two losses, we lost by over ten points," he said. "During practice we go over some scenarios but you can't really duplicate a game situation, and luckily tonight we pulled it out. We definitely made some mistakes down the stretch, but we had an eight-point lead, so we could afford to make some mistakes. Definitely it was a learning experience and fortunately we learned something and we won."

The Blue Devils, led by senior guard Marcus Taylor's nine first-half points, got off to a 9-1 lead in the game's opening minutes. Springbrook was employing a 3-2 zone defense that had the Blair half-court offense baffled. Yet Newby decided not to call a timeout, allowing the Blazers to fight through the deficit on their own.

"I don't call a lot of timeouts. I know they can handle it," said Newby. "I knew that if the guys keep playing hard and keep playing through it, then we'd be in a good position towards the end. If I call a timeout maybe they'd panic a little bit. I feel like everything will work itself out if they keep playing hard and that turned out to be true." By the end of the first quarter, Springbrook was only leading 13-12.

The two teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter, until Blair went on a storming 15-3 run in the final minutes of the first half. The Blazers, who transformed a 22-16 Devils lead into a 31-25 Blair lead at halftime, were led by Yeadon's precise shooting touch, Djoukeng's incredible court vision and senior forward Chijioke Anywanwu's uncanny ability to sneak under the basket and get open lay-ups.

Anyanwu, who led the team in points with 16 and in rebounds with ten, was moving effectively without the ball all night long. "[Springbrook] watches the ball a lot, so I try to slip in here and there and get open shots, which come from assists from Cyril and Javier [Ramos]," said Anyanwu. Djoukeng and Ramos, a senior, combined for 11 assists.

Blair held a single-digit lead for the entire third quarter, but then started the fourth quarter cold. With seven minutes remaining in the game the Blue Devils were back on top, with a 42-40 edge. It wasn't until junior center Bert Williams hit a hook shot in the paint with 5:30 to play that Blair scored in the fourth quarter. At this point, the Blazers regained their composure and reclaimed the lead, this time for good.

In their previous meeting with Springbrook, the Blazers could not contain Taylor, who scored 31 of his team's 53 points. This time, Newby made sure that his team was prepared for the quick, muscular guard. "Taylor kind of surprised us in the first game. He exploded and we weren't really playing great defense on him. So this game we focused on making sure we get a hand in his face," said Newby. Taylor finished with 11 points, only two of which came in the second half.

Entering the game, Springbrook was second place to Blair in the 4A/3A East division. The Blazers' victory increased their division lead by one full game and boosted their chances of winning the division title. Of Blair's eight games left on the schedule, seven are against schools that Blair has already beaten this season by an average score of 69-53.

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Ben Penn. Ben Penn, a senior in the Communication Arts Program, is thrilled to be taking on the role of managing sports editor for Silver Chips. While holding the position of page editor last year, Ben is proud to say that he was the only person on … More »

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