No. 2 Riverdale Baptist girls drop No. 1 Eleanor Roosevelt in scrimmage

Last night in Upper Marlboro, the two top-ranked teams in the Post’s Top 20 — No. 1 Eleanor Roosevelt and No. 2 Riverdale Baptist — faced off in a scrimmage that featured elite talent all over the court, college coaches in the stands, and playoff-style physicality.

Riverdale Baptist's Chania Ray will play for (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post) Chania Ray and the Crusaders were fired up for Monday’s scrimmage against top-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Roosevelt, wearing practice jerseys and spending just a few minutes beforehand warming up, appeared staunch in their stance that it wasn’t actually a game (officially, it wasn’t.) Riverdale, on the other hand, wore full uniforms,  warmed up to a pregame mix, and included the score on its MaxPreps schedule. Since it wasn’t actually a game, word of the matchup spread by word of mouth, but it appeared to do so effectively: fans filled the bleachers in the Riverdale gym to see the non-game, non-hyped showdown that nevertheless was one of the season’s more intriguing evenings for area girls’ basketball fans.

What fans at Riverdale saw was a 63-30 “win” for the Crusaders, who  controlled throughout, though not always to 30-point proportions, and rode a brilliant shooting night from three-point range. Riverdale hit seven threes in the game, and while specific shooting stats weren’t available (OK, so it was just really tough to keep count…) they didn’t miss more than a handful.  Chania Ray led the Crusaders with 17 points, while Chloe Jackson scored 13, including three threes.

The Raiders, on the other hand, struggled mightily shooting, leaving them to score most of their points off turnovers and in transition, rather in the half-court sets where sharpshooter Octavia Wilson and versatile scorer Kaila Charles normally create plenty of offense with rebounder extraordinaire Tolu Omokore picking up the mess when shots don’t fall.

But in a scrimmage played by both sides with full-force defense and rebounding, Omokore took an elbow to the eye midway through and missed a few minutes. Wilson didn’t find her shot until late, and Charles, while a pest on every possession defensively, couldn’t find her normally potent transition jumper, either.

Still, the standout staple of Charles’s game — her relentless defense — remained prominent even against Division I commits Jackson (N.C. State) and Ray (Florida State). The sophomore showed ridiculous reaction time, had a hand in every passing lane, and showed an ability to turn in full-court finishes off steals against top competition, even when her shots weren’t falling.

Similarly, Omokore, easily the most prolific rebounder in Prince George’s County, continued to find a way to rebound after rebound against Riverdale’s bigs — then continued to do it with one eye after taking a hit to her left eye early in the second half.

The Crusaders, on the other hand, displayed a depth of talent few area private school teams — let alone a public school squad — can match. Riverdale has cruised past every local team its faced this year, including No. 7 Damascus and Anne Arundel County schools South River (79-28 win) and Arundel (78-28). Only Stonewall Jackson gave the Crusaders — ranked 21st in the nation by MaxPreps — a close game, taking a 74-70 loss that likely qualified as a moral victory. With Jackson and Ray in the backcourt and Khaila Prather (12 points) providing points inside, the Crusaders haven’t been challenged very often.

Ultimately, it was just a scrimmage (no, really!), and the outcome of a real game in which both team’s shooting returned to expected percentages and both sides specifically prepared for the other would likely yield a much smaller deficit. In a year, when Roosevelt’s senior-less roster  has more experience and the Crusaders lose several top players, it may yield a different result altogether. But on Monday night, Riverdale walked away with an emphatic victory — scrimmage or not.

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.

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Brandon Parker · February 25, 2014