What's the proper etiquette for a blowout? Remove the starters at the start of the fourth quarter? Slow the pace down to a screeching halt? In the wake of the brouhaha involving Epiphanny Prince, Murry Bergtraum's star guard who scored 113 points in a terribly lopsided girls' basketball game, the way in which coaches handle blowouts has been put under a microscope.
After the Bryant boys' basketball team defeated visiting Long Island City, 97-52, on Wednesday Bryant coach John Demas defended his team's behavior in the fourth quarter when the team was jacking up three-pointers, even though the game was a blowout.
Long Island City was playing without three of its starters - two for grades and one because of a disciplinary matter - and was too small for Bryant, which improved to 23-1 and is the Queens I-A champion with a 12-0 league mark. The Bulldogs dropped to 6-6 in the conference, still good enough for the playoffs.
"I let the starters work in the first half and then I give them a break after halftime and let the other guys play," Demas said. "Every one of our players knows how to play. They can all shoot the ball, so you have to let them play. You can't tell them not to shoot."
It's a difficult line coaches toe: on one hand they don't want to embarrass their opponent, but on the other they don't want to restrict their players' ability to compete.
Demas sat his three stars for the entire second half, making Tony Dennison (12 points), Johnny Barnes (27 points with four three-pointers) and Shaun Willoughby (15 points and 6 assists) cheerleaders after giving the Owls a 60-20 lead at the break.
It was extensive garbage time for Bryant, as players threw passes off the backboard for attempted dunks. Even Demas, in his 19th year as coach who recently won his 300th game, was enjoying the theatrics.
"I hope no one else from some other teams saw us in the first half, trying some of those plays," said Dennison, who made one of the few selfless plays of the game when he let one of the team's seniors start in his place for the final game of the season. "We were just having some fun out there after we got off to a sluggish start."
The score was tied at 12 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter when Bryant shook off the rust and went on a 24-2 run that didn't end until there was 5:37 left in the half.
The 6-foot-4 Barnes was driving in for easy layups and was hitting three-pointers in a performance that left Long Island City coach Harley Watstein speechless on the bench. Normally loquacious, Watstein could only look away as his team panicked and turned the ball over against Bryant's press.
The Owls are off to their best start in school history, losing just once to Kennedy in December and appear to be heading for a deep run into the citywide playoffs. The school's previous best start was 21-3 in the late '70s when Demas was an assistant.
The seniors Dennison, Barnes and Willoughby comprise one of the most underrated lineups in the city.
"I think we can make it to the elite eight and beyond," said Barnes, who is considering a number of junior colleges. "We have a good team. I think we can go far this year."
Reach reporter Mitch Abramson at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.
©2006 Community News Group
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