George P. Smith/The Montgomery Sentinel

Montgomery Blair’s Kate Hildebrandt shoots a layup over BCC’s Lily Roberson. Photo by George Smith/The Montgomery Sentinel.

SILVER SPRING – When Montgomery Blair High school played against Bethesda–Chevy Chase High School (B-CC) last season, Blair power forward Peyton Martin was not in uniform. The junior was nursing an injury and watched from the bench as the Blazers lost to their rivals.

Ever since that loss, Martin had been looking forward to Blair’s next game against B-CC. That matchup was scheduled for Jan. 10 on Blair’s home court, and this time, Martin was ready. The Barons entered the game with a 5-0 record in Montgomery County play, but the Blazers defense held firm and handed the Barons their first non-tournament loss of the season by a score of 54-43.

“I know that B-CC has a reputation for being really good, and every year it’s a game that we don’t do too well in,” said Martin. “Last year, it was really rough sitting on the bench and seeing my teammates play without me, so winning this year is a really good feeling.”

Last season it may have been Martin who wasn’t able to suit up, but this time around, it was the Barons who were missing one of their key players. Junior guard Caroline Orza is B-CC’s top scorer, but she was also forced to watch from the sidelines after suffering an undisclosed injury against Whitman three days before the Barons faced Blair.

While Barons Head Coach Ryan Ingalls stated that Orza should be good to go for B-CC’s next game against Einstein High School on Jan. 13, Ingalls acknowledged the effect that Orza’s absence had on her team.

“She’s a force, and having her on the court is a huge advantage, but I wasn’t really worried about it at all necessarily,” said Ingalls. “I know what we have and the depth that we have and the talent that we have on the team. It was really frustrating for us…I just felt that we were somewhat timid and just not playing our game tonight.”

A defensive showdown resulted in a low-scoring affair for both sides as players created multiple turnovers. Whenever the Barons took the lead and threatened to pull away, the Blazers were never far behind. Martin (18 points) and junior guard Kate Hildebrandt (16 points) led the offensive charge with the tried-and-true formula of pushing through the B-CC defense for a layup.

Muscling through the Barons defense wasn’t always as easy as Hildebrandt and Martin made it seem, though. B-CC forced Blair to use up all of the shot clock on several occasions as the Blazers tried in vain to get a good look and find the open shot.

Both offenses stalled in the second quarter as players from both teams intercepted errant passes and generated turnovers. That defensive focus resulted in just seven total points in the second quarter, and the Barons entered halftime with a three-point lead.

B-CC maintained that lead through the third quarter as sophomore forward Nora Fairbanks-Lee waited for a pass in the paint before going up for a layup. Fairbanks-Lee led her team with 14 points, and senior guard Jessica Katz wasn’t far behind with 11 points.

The Barons gave up the lead in the final quarter after Martin drove through the lane for the go-ahead layup. Blair hadn’t been in the lead since the beginning of the game. Something about those numbers changing on the scoreboard seemed to reenergize the Blazers. Blair orchestrated an unanswered 7-0 scoring run and started to pull away.

Katz landed back to back 3-pointers to pull the Barons closer, but it wasn’t enough. Blair committed a shot clock violation late in the game, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the Blazers from clicking on all cylinders.

A hook shot by Hildebrandt drew cheers from the crowd, and soon the home team was ahead by the biggest lead either squad had seen all day.

The sound of the buzzer meant that the Blazers had improved to 9-1, a feat that is in line with Blair Head Coach Amy Ferguson’s goals for the season.

“We’re just not intimidated by anyone. We knew they were going to play man-to-man against us, and we just ask any team to come to play man-to-man against us,” said Ferguson. “We’re just going to continue to push and make our name. We didn’t really have a good season last year, so we’re just making a name for ourselves in the county.”

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