The Blair girls dominated, maintaining a strong lead in a 50-39 win against the Bengals
The Blair Blazers dominated the Blake Bengals, winning their playoff opener 50-39. The night started out strong, the Blazers worked well as a team, and clicked together offensively just as well as they did defensively.
Senior Guard Natalie Frost scored the first three pointer of the night, which sophomore forward Nigisti Asmeron followed up with two points of her own. Blake retaliated with a basket, but their offensive strategy was no match for the Blazers’ intensity. The first quarter ended with the two teams tied, 9-9. While the score remained close, it was clear that the Blazers had a leg up on the Bengals and a fierce strength they kept up throughout the night.
Blair started the second quarter by blocking all Bengal attempts to break the tie, scoring eight points within the opening minutes of the quarter. Back to back shots by sophomore forward Ainsle Curran pushed the Blazers further ahead, leaving the Bengals to oppose a ten point deficit that only grew throughout the entirety of the game. A buzzer-beating basket by sophomore guard Lauren Mayn ended the first half on a high note, 27-14.
The Bengals were no match for Blair’s offense and defense. The Blazers' improvement shined in this game: throughout the season, Blair had trouble converting defensive wins into offensive opportunities. In this game, however, the Blazer girls played well on both ends of the court. The Blazers went into the second half of the game confident and motivated.
As the game progressed, Frost displayed exceptional qualities of a pass-first point guard, skillfully distributing the ball to her teammates and creating scoring opportunities for them while putting her own scoring ambitions on the backburner. The team's aggressive defense led to swift fastbreak buckets, with sophomore center Emma Acquoi securing multiple steals and dominating the paint with her overpowering presence. Her assertiveness resulted in numerous "and-1" opportunities, back-to-back buckets, and a blocking foul which had the Blazer crowd roaring on their feet.
With just 1 minute and 20 seconds left in the third quarter, Blazers' sophomore guard Abby Greenberger made an impressive steal, quickly followed by a seamless conversion on the fastbreak that extended their lead to 42-21. The team's exceptional ball movement and well-coordinated playcalling allowed them to maintain their commanding position with a score that was double that of Blake's as the quarter drew to a close.
In the fourth, Blair doubled down on their defense, which was met by fouls in frustration from Blake, allowing the Blazers to rack up points from the line.
As the game drew to an end, the score made its way up to 50-39, with the Blazers emerging victorious. This triumph was especially gratifying given the team's somewhat inconsistent performances during the regular season, and it instilled a renewed sense of confidence and optimism in the Blazers for the upcoming playoff games.
"We’ve definitely come a long way, I know we were struggling in the beginning of the season, but winning this definitely showed us that we can get further into the playoffs,” said Natalie Frost, who ended with 11 points and two three pointers. When asked about the strategy going into the game, head coach Jada Launi responded with an accurate summary of the team’s gameplan. “Pushed the ball on offense when we needed to, take care of the ball, make our layups, and then run our plays.”
The Blazers will take on the Paint Branch Panthers (away) for the 4A North Region Semifinals on Monday, February 27th at 6 PM. Tickets can be found here.
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