Slow start dooms Blazers as Walter Johnson hands Blair 15th loss of the season
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, FEB. 19-
The Blair varsity boys' basketball team sulked off the court Tuesday night after falling to the Walter Johnson Wildcats by a familiarly close score, 54-48. A reflection of Blair's disappointing down-to-the-buzzer season, the game dropped the team's season record to a dismal 3-15.
"Despite the score, tonight was the first time we weren't in the mindset to win," head coach Mark DeStefano said. "Walter Johnson simply outplayed us - it is very disappointing."
Like they have nearly all season, Blair opened the game slowly, lacking intensity and aggression. The Blazers managed to take an early, and lucky, 7-2 lead, but Walter Johnson soon shut the Blazers down as standout Wildcats senior Nash Oh quickly established himself as an offensive threat, hitting three quick three pointers. Desperately hoping to mimic Oh's success, Blair's attempts at the net were repeatedly off target as the Blazers continuously missed easy yet essential shots. As the Wildcats systematically switched from zone to pressure defense, Blair was unable to catch the focused Wildcats on the scoreboard. The first quarter ended with the Blazers down, 16-12.
Blair continued to seemingly sleepwalk through the second quarter, with inconsistent offense and a lackluster defense. Against the strong aggressive play from Oh and the Wildcats, the Blazers quickly lost their composure, resulting in numerous turnovers that eventually put the game just out of grasp. "The boys have to be ready to play from the first whistle - tonight they waited until we were down to actually start playing basketball, and by then it was just too late," DeStefano said. Digging themselves into a hole to fight out of for the remainder of the game, the Blazers left the half down 31-23.
The second half opened nearly identically to the first quarter as Walter Johnson continued to stack on the points as Blair constantly left Oh and the rest of the Wildcat offense wide open. Unable to respond to their self-imposed turnovers, Blair's scattered defense sank beneath the Wildcats' strong offensive pressure. Clearly frustrated at the lack of chemistry and enthusiasm between players, DeStefano turned to his bench in attempt to revitalize the team.
"The bench came out with fire - they were hungry," junior center Leon Sampson said. The completely new lineup was well received, as the Blazers fought hard to climb out of the deficit, but it proved to be too big a feat as Blair finished the third quarter with a 46-35 deficit.
Pleased with the performance of his new five, DeStefano stuck with the lineup for a majority of the fourth quarter, hoping that their intensity would finally result in a fourth win for the Blair team. And it did - almost. The new lineup worked quickly and aggressively, setting plays and creating opportunities for each other. Performances from Sampson, senior guard Quentin Snively and senior guard and co-captain Milton Colquehoun boosted Blair's score to a mere three point deficit, down 48-45 with 1:15 left in the game.
In an all too familiar ending, Walter Johnson hit two free throws with 27 seconds left, rounding the score to 50-45. The two given points seemed to push the win just out of the Blazers' eager hands and back to the Wildcats as Walter Johnson sank yet another pair to bring the score to 52-45.
Unable to finish easy opportunities and missing three out of their four free throws, Blair allowed the Wildcats to maintain their lead. Walter Johnson brought the game to 54-46 with a wide open basket. As the last few seconds ran out on the clock, Snively scored one last futile basket as the buzzer sounded, a 54-48 loss for the home team.
Despite Blair's 13-8 fourth quarter advantage over the Wildcats, the points weren't nearly enough to undo the damage of the first half. The disappointing game instead proved to be yet another chance that the Blazers missed due to unfocused play. "We simply didn't play well enough to win tonight. You have to go out from the whistle and be ready to play, be ready to hustle," DeStefano said. "Walter Johnson obviously just wanted it more," Sampson finished.
The boys' basketball team will play its next game at Gaithersburg this Friday at 7 p.m.
Susie Branson. Key facts of Susie Branson: she's a junior in CAP, her favorite food is peanut butter, she plays soccer and lacrosse, she can't stand talking on the phone, loves country music, and her favorite ice cream is Phish Food. She is way too competitive for … More »