Boys’ basketball: Cliches are working for Blair

If you talk to members of the Blair boys’ basketball team about the keys to their 9-2 start and undefeated conference record, you’ll hear a flurry of cliches about each player doing his job, not looking past any game or team, unselfishness winning out and defense sparking offense.

But check out the stats for the Montgomery 4A South leaders, and it’s tough not to believe the message.

An unselfish willingness to execute within Coach Damon Pigrom’s offense is what senior guard Trey Wainwright and center Raymond Burtnick said was the key to their team’s success so far. The numbers back that notion, as Blair is led by a group of capable scorers: Guard Damar Bess averages just fewer than 13 points per game, and Wainwright, foward Lonnie Feldman and Burtnick all average 10 points per game. They’re backed by junior guard Danny Canary, who has averaged seven points per game despite being hobbled by a nagging foot injury.

“We have people who can shoot, we have people who can slash, we have people who can get big points in the paint, so for other teams, it’s a matchup problem,” Burtnick said. “You can’t take that away. No matter what, someone’s going to be open and be able to do their job and make a play on any given possession.”

The Blazers also said patience and execution were keys to their unbeaten conference mark. Balanced and athletic, Blair canthreaten defenses from each position on the court.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

“We like to keep the defense moving,” Feldman said. “We like to wear the defense out before we like to score. Everybody get touches. But we’re athletic, we can push the ball as well.”

So far, the only local team to best Blair’s multi-faceted and disciplined defensive and offensive lineup is Springbrook, which beat the Blazers by 12 on Dec. 16. Pigrom says that loss taught him to trust the cliched but highly effective approach that has served Blair well deep into January.

“One of my assistants told me, ‘Do what you do best,’” Pigrom said. “That particular game I kind of got away from what we do best and got a little too concerned about what they do. When we went back to doing what we do — pressing, trying to run, all that — it was a different game.”

Blake’s leading scorer, senior Demonte Ojinnaka (16.9 points per game), is out indefinitely after suffering a knee injury. Ojinnaka had emerged as one of the most dangerous players in the county, and Pigrom says he expects his star to be back within a few weeks.

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.

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