HYATTSVILLE – Before the Clippers from Oxon Hill High School took to the court to face Montgomery Blair High School on June 17, Head Coach Lewis Howard told his players that they needed to work on developing their defense.
Howard did not need to ask twice.
The Clippers forced multiple turnovers, fundamental errors and denied the Blazers at the basket to cruise to an 80-48 routing in the Capitol Hoops Summer League at DeMatha Catholic High School.
While Oxon Hill proved its defensive dominance, the Clippers also displayed their offensive prowess, as three different players finished the game with double-digit points scored.
However, nobody could outscore guard Ronald Polite. The rising senior posted a game-high 26 points and made it look easy as he penetrated the Blair defense time and time again.
Even though the two teams are in different counties and do not get to play against each other often, Blair forward Alfred Worrell Jr., was fully aware of Polite’s skill set and said that part of Blair’s pre-game preparations included discussing ways to contain the Clippers guard.
“We knew one of their players was averaging 30 points a game, so our game plan was to try to keep him from scoring,” said Worrell, who led the Blazers with a team-high 15 points. “But their pressure was a lot, and our team had a lot of turnovers.”
Many of those turnovers resulted in fastbreak points for Polite, or helped set up a 3-point bucket for guard Malik Holland, who finished with 20 points and shot 50% from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, Worrell and rising senior forward Abu-Bakarr Bangura tried to keep the Blazers in the game, as both players fought mightily to cut through the Oxon Hill defense.
Neither team lacked heart nor aggression, as athletes often fell to the floor to chase after a loose ball or collided midair with their opponent while going up for a lay-up.
The Clippers’ bench remained animated throughout the course of the game as they cheered on their teammates, and Howard prowled the sidelines shouting instructions. In stark contrast, as the game went on, the Blair bench became increasingly subdued.
“We got beat essentially in every facet of the game, and it showed,” said Blair Head Coach Damon Pigrom. “I told our guys going in that (Oxon Hill) was going to press us and that we had to be smart with the ball, and we didn’t do that.”
However, the game was not always out of reach for Blair. In fact, the Montgomery County squad took the lead in the first half on a lay-up, courtesy of Worrell, who stared down his opponent as he jogged to the other side of the court.
That lead change seemed to ignite a fire in the Clippers, and they responded by tightening their defense and kicking off a 12-3 scoring barrage that the Blazers didn’t have an answer for.
Oxon Hill made sure the Blazers couldn’t find an open shot, and even when a Blair player did manage to drive through the paint, the Clippers bombarded him under the basket, and even lay-ups missed their mark.
Blair trailed by 21 points at halftime, but that margin did not seem to be enough for Oxon Hill. The Clippers adhered to their tried-and-true formula, and the onslaught continued as Polite swept into the lane uncontested on several occasions.
Worrell and Bangura combined for 27 points for the Blazers, and rising junior guard Jacob Briggs added a 3-pointer late in the game, but Oxon Hill’s lead was too insurmountable for Blair to overcome.
“We lost the game, and I didn’t play well enough for my team to get a W,” said Worrell. “That’s all that matters.”
Oxon Hill’s victory lifted the team from Prince George’s County out of a two-game losing rut. The Clippers lost to Richard Montgomery and St. Andrew’s back-to-back, by a combined 19 points.
According to Howard, though, the Clippers made up for those previous losses with their tremendous defensive performance against Blair.
“We’re working on developing our talents. We forced a lot of turnovers, our rotations are getting better, we’re getting crisper,” said Howard.
“That’s the style that we’re playing. This was a great, great summer league game, where I got to teach a little bit and our kids responded. Rotations, movements, things of that nature, it’s very important that we were able to get that, and finish and convert on the other end.”