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Park dampens Key offense to hand Obezags first conference loss in boys basketball

When a leak sprung, Key rushed to plug it up. For a while, it worked.

Then, the boat filled with too much water, and went down.

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Unable to make a basket for more than half of the fourth quarter, Park was able to run away with a double-digit lead to be the ones to hand the Obezags their first MIAA C Conference loss, 61-49.

Key senior Augie Irving had been adept in the art of patching up holes throughout the game, following up a 34-point frenzy against Jemicy the week before with 24 points against a stingy Bruins (5-4) squad. But until Irving came crashing against the glass and wrestle in a layup away from six Park arms, he, too, lost his spark in the fourth.

“They didn’t have the energy to go, honestly. I kept trying to tell them to push the intensity. It just seemed like we weren’t quite there,” Key coach Brent Coleman said. “When they did put pressure on them like I was asking them to, they turned the ball over. If they didn’t turn the ball over, they almost turned the ball over. But that’s only a few times they actually did it.”

Lifelong Annapolis resident Brendan Kelly has ceded ownership of the Chesapeake Bayhawks to Major League Lacrosse.

It had been the Bruins’ plan all along to restrain the Obezags (3-4) to less than 50 points. After all, they weren’t too keen on repeating events from last winter. When Key travelled to Pikesville last season, the Obezags unraveled a double-digit Park advantage primarily via free throws to win, 55-50. They’d secured their other bout against the Bruins, 57-55.

“We were in this situation last year, the game here and the game at our place, where we sort of let things get away from us a little bit,” Park coach Anthony Adams said. “We have a lot of the same kids back this year, so it’s a point of them just learning their lesson, this game experience and adversity. That’s why we were able to pull it out today.”

That lesson reared its head early. Though Park struck first, Irving replied with a calm shot from the 3-point line.

The Bruins had to pad some distance, which they left to the capable hands of Ryan Bradley (15 points), who scored 11 last winter against Key in his own house. Bradley rattled off two treys to cap off an 8-0 run.

But the Obezags’ twin playmakers could not be held. Like rivulets of seawater through sand, senior Marshall Tanz cleaved through the Park defense to bring the deficit to one on his own 3-point shot, leading the way for Irving to momentarily reclaim the lead, 13-12.

McDonogh School beat Nazareth and Erie Cathedral Prep to win the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Virginia on Jan. 11.

That ownership simply wasn’t sustainable. Park’s Chima Okoro snatched it right back, dropping in a pair of layups that penciled in a six-point Bruins advantage at the buzzer.

When Key lashed back it, once again, happened like slides on a PowerPoint. In one image, Irving’s jumper in the paint brought things within one point. In another, Tanz’s cross-court hurl to Noah Paucek in the host’s final drive of the half made the matter a one possession contest, an easily attainable objective when the players came back out after the break.

“We knew we couldn’t let it be a 60 or 70 point game. If it’s a 60 or 70 point game, it really diminishes our chances of actually winning the game,” Adams said. “… It was just a point of having the kids focus every defensive position, just grind, just grind, just grind.”

Patterns of the first half continued to haunt Key. The cycle began with a four-point Park stretch that punched out a bit of a lead. Then, the Obezags stitched it up as Tanz followed up Irving’s perimeter shot with a steal for a layup and then another diving, weaving basket behind his head off Irving’s swipe.

Irving’s shot rolled around the rim and out, but earned him two chances at the foul line, which he put to good use, taking back a fragile, one-point lead.

A lead that, then, the Bruins worked to demolish. By the time Okoro flipped in his field goal before the third quarter ran out, the Obezags had bid farewell to their last cause for hope – because as the fourth quarter began, Key sank deeper, deeper and deeper until victory was only a watery blur in the distance.

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The River Hill girls basketball team defeated Arundel, 50-30, on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

Park’s Jonah Friedman followed up his quarter-opening trey with a layup to break open the visitor’s largest gap of the night, one that his teammates would continue to chisel away until Bradley’s bucket from beyond the arc cemented the double-digit advantage, 55-41.

All the while, Key’s habit of fighting back snuffed out. Both Tanz and Irving missed a combined five shots before the Obezags were able to score again, about five minutes into the eight-minute frame.

“It’s just trying to understand where they are at all times,” Adams said of the two Key seniors. “Those are really two good players. There’s nothing you’re really going to do to stop them. Just try to make it as difficult for them as possible, understand where they are on the floor at all times.”

Key’s strategy to hit heavy dents in Park’s leads with 3-point shots worked better in the first half, when they made them. In the fourth, however, they wouldn’t make them – not a single one.

“They settled for a lot of the outside shots, but that’s because of the size,” Coleman said. “We’re not used to playing the guys with the size that they had. Two kids on the inside are long and (Okoro) is athletic. With his length and athleticism, it makes it difficult to score on the inside.”

Still, three minutes remained on the clock, leaving Key, theoretically, plenty of time to wipe out a four-possession deficit. They’d done far worse than that to Park less than a year ago, defeating the Bruins by five after trailing by 13.

To finally break the drought, Irving battled through three Bruins guards assigned to defend him, which Tanz boosted a bit with a made free throw.

It was too little, too late. The Bruins responded to those three Key points with four of their own.

“There was a lot of miscommunication, too, on whether or not we were pressing, which pressure we were in,” Coleman said. “Hats off to them (Park). They controlled the pace of the game, which I tried to get them (Key) to change. This slow, half-court circuit benefits them way more than it benefits us. We like to get out and run and play in transition. We didn’t get a chance to do that.”

As the last minutes winded out, the Obezags just couldn’t reconnect with their net. Their final shots at the visitors were just one point apiece. Though foul shots had been Key’s salvation last February, it simply couldn’t draw them, or anything else, in those last moments.

“It starts to deter guys when they get a couple blocks; at this level, they want to stay outside and shoot more instead of actually attacking them,” Coleman said. “When we attack them, we did great. We just didn’t do it much.”

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