The Eleanor Roosevelt High School girls basketball team’s perfect season came to an abrupt end through a flawlessly executed game plan by Gwynn Park during Wednesday’s Prince George’s County championship game at Henry A. Wise High School.
Using both a full-court press and a half-court trap, the Yellow Jackets forced the taller, but slower Raiders into multiple turnovers that both limited Roosevelt offensively and sparked Gwynn Park’s offense en route to 70-58 victory and the program’s first county title since 2005.
“We knew if we do what we did in practice, we wouldn’t have a problem this game,” said Yellow Jackets guard Genesis Lucas, who scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half to pace Gwynn Park (19-3). “[Forcing turnovers] gave us a lot of momentum. After we were turning them over left and right, we knew if we kept doing what we was doing, they weren’t going to be a problem,
“It’s a good feeling. Last year, we got here but we didn’t quite win, but this year it feels great, one of our accomplishments.”
The loss ended Roosevelt’s season-long 21-game win streak and denied the Raiders their first county crown since 2009.
“Turnovers killed us. They’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of speed,” Roosevelt coach Delton Fuller said. “A lot of credit goes to Gwynn Park. Going 21-0, [losing] might be a good thing to happen to us. They have something to kind of be upset about and something to work on. We missed way too many free throws, way too many layups.
“They definitely controlled the tempo of the game. We’re used to controlling the tempo. That was definitely different for us.”
Gwynn Park picked up that tempo by constantly trapping and doubling Roosevelt guards Jazmin Faulkner and Daria Simmons in the backcourt and frontcourt, forcing them to attempt risky passes or dribble into tough shots. The strategy became very successful in the second quarter when Faulkner committed her third foul and sat with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half.
With Faulkner sidelined, Gwynn Park went on an 11-4 run to take a 44-28 halftime lead. Kache Fields (17 points) ended that run with six straight points in the final 40-plus seconds on a steal, a layup and a pair of jump shots. Roosevelt committed 15 turnovers in the opening 16 minutes and was outscored 26-8 in the second quarter.
“We scouted them so when we had the opportunity to break the film down [and] we were able to see we were quicker,” Yellow Jackets coach Michael Strother said. “We thought our trapping-style defense and up tempo would be to our advantage. We were just trying to play our pace of basketball and not theirs.
“This means a lot. It gives us good momentum going into the playoffs and it gives a little bit of confidence. We lost to Friendly [last week] and we were down a little bit. I think this will carry us far.”
Gwynn Park took a 57-42 lead into the fourth quarter and then staved off a Roosevelt rally paced largely by Kaila Charles (16 points, nine rebounds) and Tolu Okomore (14 points, 15 rebounds) that cut the deficit to as low as eight points twice. But a 3-pointer by TaKayla Ellis with 1:29 left in the game essentially sealed the win for the Yellow Jackets.
Gwynn Park 70, Eleanor Roosevelt 58
Gwynn Park 18 26 13 13 — 70
Eleanor Roosevelt 20 8 14 16 — 58
Gwynn Park (19-3): TaKayla Ellis 6, Ashleigh Seegars 6, Kache Fields 17, Genesis Lucas 15, Crystal Strother 6, Chantelle Gross 4, Tanisha Cardwell 4, Armoni Mooney 3, Tashina Cardwell 2.
Eleanor Roosevelt (21-1): Sandra Okafor 7, Tolu Okomore 14, Daria Simmons 11, Kaila Charles 16, Alannah Baiyina 8, Jazmin Faulkner 2.