Winning doesn't always look good; the best teams find a way to prevail under any condition.
The defending Class 4A state champion Eleanor Roosevelt High School boys' basketball team might not have played its best game at Prince George's 4A foe Charles H. Flowers Friday but the Raiders found a way to make plays when they most needed them in a 72-71 victory.
“I thought [my team] showed a lot of toughness [Friday] night,” Roosevelt coach Brendan O'Connell said. “We went 1 for 6 from the free throw line in the last minute and had a couple bad turnovers, it was ugly, but we won and I was real proud of them for that.”
It's taken some time, O'Connell said, for the Raiders to settle into their new dynamic. They're much smaller than they've been in the past and are more reliant on their quickness in a five-guard motion offense predicated on strong perimeter shooting.
Led by junior guard Larry McCan, who shot 4 for 5 from behind the 3-point arc in the second half, Roosevelt (8-2) netted 11 3-point shots to Flowers' (8-3) four. Senior inside-outside threat Andre Fox paced the Raiders with a game-high 20 points. McCan finished with 17 total points, 15 of them off 3-point shots.
“What makes [Roosevelt] so hard to guard is they play five-guard and they make you come out and guard and they've always been very disciplined, offensively,” Flowers coach Mark Edwards said. “Though they may not have as much talent, offensively [as last year], they're still extremely disciplined. [O'Connell] does a great job getting these guys to understand their roles and what they want to do.”
Flowers presented a tough matchup for Roosevelt, O'Connell admitted. Led by multifaceted 6-foot-7 center/forward Clint Robinson (12 points Friday) the Jaguars certainly held a size advantage. But unlike some teams, Flowers' size doesn't detract from its speed and overall athleticism, which almost nullifies Roosevelt's main weapon against larger opponents: Speed.
“We're not as big as any team we play,” O'Connell said. “We definitely need to take advantage of our quickness, speed and skill. ... [Flowers] is so much bigger than us but at the same time I don't think we had that much of an advantage in quickness or speed. They're so athletic and tough above the rim.”
Basketball is a game of runs and both teams had their share of momentum swings but in the end, Roosevelt's were more prosperous. The Raiders jumped out to an early 19-10 lead. But Flowers' 18-3 stretch that spanned the end of the first quarter and first half of the second quarter, put the Jaguars ahead by seven points midway through the second period — the first quarter ended with both teams tied, 19-19.
Roosevelt led 34-32 at halftime and with four 3-point shots in the first three minutes of the third quarter, pulled away by 15 points and looked to be in control with a 60-48 lead through three quarters. Somewhere in the middle of the Raiders' attempt to drain the clock, Flowers found itself within two points and 30 seconds left to play. Robinson hit a long two-point basket at the buzzer in game-winning fashion but ultimately Roosevelt had build up too big a lead.
“[Flowers] is a good team and at no point did we think we were going to go on one run and that be it,” O'Connell said. “Hopefully this gave us momentum. We made a lot of mistakes and still won so if we correct those, I think we can be a pretty good team.”
Eleanor Roosevelt 72, Charles H. Flowers 71
Roosevelt 19 15 26 12 — 72
Flowers 19 13 16 23 — 71
Roosevelt (8-2) — Andre Fox 20, Larry McCan 17, Trae Butler 14, Bryant Best 9.
Flowers (8-3) — Devin Shuler 15, Patrick Johnson 14, Clint Robinson 12, Juwan Weldon 12,