If it’s one thing the Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders boys’ basketball team can do, it’s play defense.

The Greenbelt, Md. school held an opponent to 19 points earlier this season, and they followed that up with perhaps their second most impressive performance of the season in a 51-30 win over the Charles Herbert Flowers Jaguars in a Maryland 4A South final on March 5 at Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, Md.

The win granted Roosevelt a second consecutive trip to the state finals, which will take place on March 10 at the Comcast Center on the University of Maryland Campus.

Working a rotating zone defense, Roosevelt dismantled Flowers’ offense, forcing steals and missed shots and disrupting any plays Flowers attempted to run. Flowers could only muster 15 points in each half and a catastrophic four points in the first and fourth quarters.

“It’s great to win,” Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell said. “I think our defense was the difference in the game. We held them to 15 points in the second half and we didn’t give up any offensive rebounds or second chances. We talked about that all year that defense wins it and tonight you saw that it did.”

Defense wasn’t Roosevelt’s only secret weapon. A 26-point outburst by senior forward Prince Okoroh also played a large role in the team’s win. For every basket missed by Flowers (14-10), Okoroh was there to finish on the other end, helping Roosevelt pull away in the second half.

“Unbelievable,” O’Connell said about the senior’s performance. “He’s one of the best players in the state and he showed it tonight.”

Roosevelt (17-8) will face the Maryland 4A North winner; Baltimore powerhouse Patterson Clippers (24-1) and star sophomore guard Aquille Carr. Patterson is coming off a 93-55 rout of Urbana, a game in which Carr scored 43 points.

While the task ahead appears daunting, O’Connell believes now is the perfect time for Roosevelt to show their stuff.

“We’ve had some ups and downs this year but to be going there with eight losses, we’re playing well at the right time,” O’Connell added.
 

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO