Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Coach challenges players after Tigers fall to Raiders

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In the span of five minutes — perhaps no longer than the visiting team’s bus ride in a battle of two schools with parking lots touching Greenbelt Road — momentum in Tuesday’s County 4A League contest between host DuVal High School and visiting Eleanor Roosevelt shifted dramatically twice.

Roosevelt watched a 50-41 advantage evaporate quickly into a two-point deficit as the host Tigers went on an 11-0 run late in the third quarter. But the Raiders scored the last five points of the period and started the fourth period with a 16-3 run that eventually propelled the visitors to a 77-67 victory despite chants of ‘‘overrated” from the hometown faithful.

Roosevelt forward Chase Smith ended the Tigers’ 11-0 run with a short jumper, and reserve Anthony Mortis connected on a 3-point field goal as the buzzer sounded to end the period with the Raiders ahead 55-52. Lasan Kromah added two more 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. Before reaching the three-minute mark of the final quarter the Raiders (11-3 overall, 10-3 in the 4A League) were comfortably in front, 71-55.

‘‘That was a big shot by Anthony at the end of the third quarter,” said Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell. ‘‘That really seemed to turn the momentum back in our favor. We were tied at 52-all before he hit that shot and then I looked up five minutes later and we were up by 15 or 16. I thought we did a good job rebounding. They did not get a lot of second or third shot opportunities.”

DuVal coach Artie Walker rarely displays much outward emotion before, during or even after a game. But Tuesday evening, he was clearly not pleased with his players’ performance. Walker even quipped that the Tigers may not enter the postseason if things don’t change.

‘‘These guys are not playing for me,” said Walker, whose team dropped to 8-7 overall and 7-6 in the league. ‘‘I don’t know who they’re playing for, but it’s not for me. I’ve been in this game for 30 years, so as a coach I know what I’m talking about. But these guys don’t listen to me. This late in the season, a team should reflect its coach’s personality. We have one of the tallest teams in the county and yet these guys want to take ill-advised shots. They have a complete lack of basketball etiquette.”

In the first half the two teams combined for 26 turnovers that were equally divided, but 3-point field goals by Mike Thomas, Smith and Brendan Straughn enabled the Raiders to take a 35-28 lead at halftime. Kromah and Straughn opened the third period with three more 3-pointers, but the Tigers were still relatively close at 50-41.

Reserves Andrew Council and Aaron Cannon gave DuVal a spark late in the third period and suddenly the hosts forged ahead. Cannon scored seven straight points during the Tigers’ 11-0 run that gave them a 52-50 edge with less than a minute to play in the period. But the Raiders countered with baskets from Smith and Mortis and the Tigers’ balloon appeared to burst at that point, particularly after Roosevelt opened the fourth quarter with a 16-3 run.

E-mail Ted Black at tblack@gazette.net.