West Nottingham Head Coach Raphael Chillious had to feel pretty good after the half-time break.
His Ram squad outscored Blair Academy 18-6 to end the first half in Wednesday night's game, and held a 32-30 lead at the intermission.
Couple that with the absence of Bucs' star senior 6-9 forward Charlie Villanueva (out with mono), and Chillious had to be thinking about sneaking out of Blairstown, N.J. with a victory over Rivalshoops.com top ranked high school team in the country.
But the wheels came flying off the buggy in the third quarter, as Blair used an electric 27-6 run to take a commanding 55-36 lead after 24 minutes of play.
And no matter what magic Chillious tried to work on the sidelines to stem the surge, things only got worse.
"At one point, I took the Phil Jackson philosophy to try to see if we could play our way through it," he said. "I kept my mouth shut, and that obviously didn't work, but I used it as a learning tool so I can go back and explain to the guys that we did it my way in the first half."
"And then in the second half, we did it the majority your way," Chillious continued. "Which one is better?"
In the first half, West Nottingham used crisp ball movement that resulted in several excellent looks from the perimeter. Cheyenne Moore and Dan Ross canned some three pointers, and Josh Boone mopped up inside as the Rams turned a 24-14 second quarter deficit into that 32-30 half-time lead.
"Because we did such a good job of executing our offense in the first half and got easy shots, easy looks, that I think our guys took that to mean that they got easy looks, on their own," Chillious explained. "Then we started to get into a situation where it would be one pass, and take a shot, whereas in the first half, we passed the ball five, six or seven times before shooting it and got good shots."
The Rams' second half offensive woes coincided with a tour de force from Blair's outstanding 6-8 swingman Luol Deng. Deng took Blair on his shoulders, scoring 13 points in the 27-6 bulge that effectively decided the game's outcome.
"When Louie went on that run, not only did it raise his game, but it raised everyone else's game around him," Chillious said. "And then everyone started hitting shots."
In some respects, West Nottingham caught Blair on a night ripe for an upset, since the Bucs were without Villanueva. Chillious said he knew that Villanueva wouldn't be playing the night before, but didn't break the news to his club until shortly before tip off on Wednesday night.
"For me, in the first half, it was a good thing, because it made us raise our level higher," the coach said. "There was more incentive, more of a realistic chance to knock them off, and in the first half, we played that way."
The UConn bound Boone scored 10 of his team high 23 points in the second quarter as West Nottingham quickly erased a 10 point gap.
"He touched the ball," Chillious said. "In the third quarter, he only shot the ball three times."
Not surprisingly, Boone scored just three points in that period.
"We can't win if Josh doesn't touch the ball, because he is so unselfish," Chillious continued. "When they double team him, he gets other people lay-ups with his passing. If he doesn't touch the ball, we are in trouble."
With that in mind, Rivalshoops.com takes a closer look at how Blair wrested control of the contest in the third quarter:
ANATOMY OF A BREAK DOWN
7:12 Deng saunters into the lane for an eight foot pull up jumper, 30-30
6:35 Lucien 3 pointer gives Blair lead for good, 33-30 Blair
6:15 Lucien finds Felipe on break for easy deuce, 35-30 Blair
5:40 Deng fouled in act of shooting, cans a pair of FTs, 37-30 Blair
5:06 Davidson steal and score, 39-30 Blair
4:27 Beers misses, but Deng comes out of nowhere to slam it home, 41-30 Blair
4:10 Deng blocks shot by West Nottingham's Dan Ross
4:05 Deng's block fuels break, Davidson fouled other end, 1/2 FT, 42-30 Blair
4:01 Deng grabs Davidson FT miss, scores, and is fouled, 0/1 FT, 44-30 Blair
3:12 Boone fouled, 1/2 FT, 44-31 Blair
3:02 Boone tip in Gonsalves miss, 44-33 Blair
2:35 Gonsalves fouled on drive to hole, 1/2 FT, 44-34 Blair
2:23 Deng knocks down jumper from FT line, 46-34 Blair
2:03 Cheyenne Moore misses ill-advised 3, Felipe scores on other end, 48-34 Blair
1:30 Gonsalves cleans up miss in paint, 48-36 Blair
1:11 Deng connects on trey, 51-36 Blair
:45 Felipe scores ahead of field on break, 53-36 Blair
:23 Beers finds Alvarez all alone lay-in, 55-36 Blair
END OF QUARTER 27-6, Blair, 55-36 score.