MILFORD, Del. -- You couldn't have scripted the outcome better on late Friday night at the War on the Shore Basketball Tournament.
Blair Academy, featuring the top two players in the event and two of the nation's top five senior prospects, rolled to a 73-49 victory over Our Savior New American in the nightcap at Milford H.S.
But don't let the final score fool you. If it weren't for some outstanding second half performances by those two players, Luol Deng (right) and Charlie Villanueva, the Buccaneers' ship might have ground ashore.
With Villanueva and Deng running the show, Blair overcame some early second half turbulence and steered the team to victory.
Trailing 31-20 after the first half, Our Savior rode the hot second half shooting of outstanding 6-8 junior forward Juan Diego Palacios to close the gap to 41-40 with 9:13 to play. Palacios went off the glass over Deng to close a 20-10 surge that pulled the Pioneers to within a point.
And Blair's ship appeared to be taking on water at that point. Siena bound combo guard Mike Beers picked up a technical foul, his fifth of the game right around that point, to earn a disqualification. Bucs' Head Coach Joe Mantegna was also whistled for a technical, and Blair was clinging to a 44-42 lead with 8:55 to play before Villanueva and Deng simply took over.
The result was an 18-4 Buccaneer run that turned a precarious two point lead into a comfortable 62-46 lead with 5:10 remaining.
Villanueva began the run innocently enough with a pair of free throws, followed by a coast to coast hoop and a tip slam off a missed free throw by teammate Chris Alvarez to boost the lead back to 50-42 in a little over a minutes' time.
Deng continued the momentum that Villanueva started with a follow inside off an Alvarez miss. After Villanueva drew a charge, Alvarez followed his own three point miss with a slam to make it 56-45.
Deng capped the surge with a pair of free throws and a steal, which led to Villanueva playing volleyball with himself on the other end until about four touches later, when he tapped the ball in to make it 60-46. Moments later, he knifed through the lane and scored, capping the explosive surge and effectively sinking any chances that the Pioneers had of winning on Friday night.
"I think what happened at the end is that we trusted in each other, and the guys just believed that we weren't going to lose the game," Deng said. "Even when it got down to one, me and Charlie stepped it up at the end."
Villanueva said he was battling a minor cold and fever during the contest. He picked up two fouls early and despite his slow start, rebounded to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"I wasn't feeling too good, but I knew my team needed me, so we just played together and I just came through," Villanueva said. "Hopefully, I will be better by tomorrow, but I will still play if I am sick, because my team needs me out there."
Deng also had a terrific stat line on Friday, amassing 25 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four steals on a night where Blair needed its two superstars the most.