Blair boys fall to Kennedy, 47-45
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, Jan. 14—
In sports, ecstasy can turn to agony in the blink of an eye. High school athletes know this, and most have experienced it before. Yet somehow, every time it happens, it stings just as badly.
On Saturday afternoon, the Blair varsity boys' basketball team (3-7) trailed the Kennedy Cavaliers (6-6) late in the fourth quarter. But with 40 seconds remaining, senior point guard Tucker Canary knocked down a three-pointer from the right elbow, tying the game in the process. The crowd went wild. After a Kennedy timeout, Canary was called for a reach-in foul on the opposing point guard, junior Marcus Murray, who proceeded to drain both free throws with 7.4 seconds on the clock. Blair advanced the ball past half-court and called timeout with 3.5 seconds left in an effort to set up their offense for one final shot.
Junior guard Justin Kung entered the game for the first time to inbound the ball. Kung passed to Canary, who found enough space to put up the potential game-winning three. The ball clanged off the rim. Kung, in an incredibly heads-up play, rebounded the miss in the paint and put up a second shot, drawing a foul with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Again, the crowd went wild. Kung had a chance to send the game into overtime with two made free throws, but after waiting for referees to deliberate over how much time should remain, Kung missed the first attempt. Kung intentionally missed the second to give Blair a chance for a put-back, but Kennedy rebounded the miss and sealed the 47-45 win.
Blair was out-rebounded for much of the game, which sophomore center Raymond Burtnick attributed to a lack of effort. "People just didn't want the ball," Burtnick said.
The Blazers led for the majority of the game, finding success on the offensive end early on, scoring eighteen points in the first quarter. After the Cavaliers started the game with a 7-2 run, Blair quickly erased the deficit by scoring on several fast breaks. On one such play, Canary split the defense and passed to senior Rick Narcisse, who finished with ten points, for an impressive basket. On another, senior guard Justin Shack's drive to the hole extended the team's lead to five, and Blair finished the first period with an 18-13 lead.
The second quarter was highlighted by defense, with the Blazers holding Kennedy to just seven points. Burtnick, who took two charges in the period, said that the team's strategy going into the game emphasized limiting the Cavaliers' talented scorers. "We needed to focus a lot on defense," he said.
Murray, who finished with a game-high 20 points, was a particular challenge. "We wanted to contain him," Burtnick said. "He's their best player."
After leading 28-20 at halftime, Kennedy went on a scoring run in the third, cutting Blair's lead to 39-34. Talented point guard play was the story of the quarter, as Murray and Canary, who finished with 20 and 15 points, respectively, exchanged assists and threes.
Blair saw its lead slip away in the fourth quarter, however. Kennedy sophomore Kief Williams opened with a three, and Blair sophomore Damar Bess responded with a three of his own. The Blazers would only score three more points for the rest of the game, struggling to maintain the up-tempo offense that had carried them through the first half. "We didn't get out in transition," Burtnick said. "We didn't get to the [free-throw] line much, either. We have to get to the line."
The loss marked Blair's sixth in a row. However, it was the closest of those six, and the team gave up the fewest points, 47, it has to an opponent all season. Limiting opponents' offensive rebounds, however, continues to be an issue, one that Burtnick expects to be addressed in practice before Blair's next game. "We're going to run a lot," he said, "and work on rebounding."
The boys' varsity basketball team will play its next home game on Jan. 20 against Paint Branch at 5:15 p.m.
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