A new dynasty rising at Eleanor Roosevelt? -- Gazette.Net


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The starters for Eleanor Roosevelt High School girls’ basketball team returned to the bench with just under two minutes remaining in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship. Well before the final buzzer sounded, the celebration was starting.

Like they had done to their first 25 opponents, the Raiders (26-0) dominated their opponent, this time defending state champion North Point High School in Waldorf, avenging last season’s semifinals loss with a 64-30 victory at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

The win marked the end of Roosevelt’s perfect season, and with the entire lineup expected to return, it could also mark the start of another dynasty at the Greenbelt school.

“I definitely think they have the ability and the leadership to be able to make a run at it,” said St. Vincent Pallotti coach Rod Hairston, who led Roosevelt to five championships from 2005 to 2009. “For another year, another two years or so. Not a question.”

Roosevelt cruised through the postseason, routing Largo High School in the county championship and defeating Bowie, Charles H. Flowers and Laurel high schools to win the 4A South Region. The 75-48 state semifinal victory against Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville was the closest game of the postseason for the Raiders, who finished with an average winning margin of 34.2 points in the playoffs and a 38.9 differential for all games.

“They’re one of the most dominant teams I’ve seen in the past 17 years,” DuVal coach Keith Devoe said. “… They’re going to be something to deal with.”

Freshman Octavia Wilson (20 points), sophomore Kaila Charles (16) and junior Tolu Omokore (15) combined for 51 points in the title game, leading the Raiders as they’ve done all season.

In Charles, Roosevelt has a versatile 6-foot guard who can defend inside and outside while putting up double-doubles and distributing the ball.

Omokore provides Roosevelt with a presence in the paint; the 6-foot junior collected 20 boards (15 offensive) in the championship.

Wilson came on strong at the end of the season, averaging 16.2 points in the playoffs and leading the Raiders in scoring in the title game.

“This is the first of many,” Charles said in the postgame press conference.

The trio will have plenty of help, with starters Alannah Baiyina and Daijah Davis returning, freshman center Jaala Henry expected to play a larger role after missing most of this season and the rest of the roster remaining intact.

“I’m not saying we’re going to be a dynasty. I’m just trying to get number two and stay humble,” Roosevelt coach Delton Fuller said.

Henry A. Wise coach Walter Clark said Roosevelt’s undefeated season was a victory for the county. The longtime coach, who led DuVal to four state titles, said that a school such as Roosevelt could encourage athletes to stay in public schools instead of transferring.

“I’m happy for [Roosevelt],” Clark said. “Would I like to be in that mix? Absolutely. But I’ve taught and worked for Prince George’s County for 35 years. I’m a company man.”

All but three of Roosevelt’s victories were decided by double-digits — the exceptions: Bowie (twice) and Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va. — but Fuller said he plans to beef up next season’s schedule by adding the maximum of five non-county games, mentioning Upper Marlboro’s Riverdale Baptist School and Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg as possible opponents.

The Raiders played three non-county games this season — Southern, Aberdeen, Mount Vernon high schools — all at a holiday tournament.

Roosevelt scrimmaged Riverdale Baptist twice, losing by about five points in the first when the teams didn’t keep score, Fuller said. The Raiders were defeated 63-30 in the second scrimmage.

Fuller and Riverdale Baptist coach Sam Caldwell — an assistant under Hairston during Roosevelt’s five-year run — said they were interested in setting up a rematch next season.

“Everybody wants to see whoever the best teams are play each other,” Caldwell said. “That’s what we should be doing to help promote our sport.”

egoldwein@gazette.net