Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Delton Fuller bowed his head and smiled, then slapped his chest four times after Tolu Omokore muscled her way through two Paint Branch defenders and converted a layup during the second half of Thursday’s 4A state semifinal, pushing the Raiders lead to 16. The play seemed to bring something out of Fuller. It was a microcosm of his team’s night against the Panthers, who clawed for every inch but who were outmatched against the undefeated Raiders. And it signified something Fuller has been waiting a year for: a chance at redemption against North Point.
That will come in Saturday’s state title game, after Eleanor Roosevelt cruised to a 75-48 win Thursday over Paint Branch. Kaila Charles scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Omokore added 13 points for the Raiders, who kept their perfect season alive with their 25th consecutive win.
North Point, the defending 4A state champion, won Thursday’s earlier semifinal against Magruder. It’s been a year since the Eagles defeated Roosevelt in the 4A state semifinals, a 57-55 win that came in overtime. There have been subtle reminders of that game since. The stats hang in Charles’s room, as well as in the team’s locker room. And the film was broken out during lunch hour earlier this week at the Greenbelt school, where a few of the players watched in a state of discontent.
“We’re happy we’re going to be playing them again, because we’re playing them again because we want to redeem ourselves,” Omokore said. “We worked really hard to get to this point and play them again.”
Paint Branch (23-3) was supposed to be a major roadblock to the Raiders’ perfect season, but that never materialized Thursday. The Panthers used a 10-0 run, including a deep three-pointer from star guard Kiara Colston (15 points) to pull within 17-15 early in the second quarter, which prompted Fuller to call a timeout. He told his team to settle down and sit down on defense.
It was never close after that, thanks to a 19-3 second quarter run keyed by Daijah Davis (13 points) and Octavia Wilson (11 points), both underclassmen. The run continued in the third quarter in large because of Omokore (18 rebounds) and the offensive gifts of Charles, who entered the contest averaging 18.6 points per game. She closed the third quarter after colliding with a Paint Branch player in mid-air for three-point play to make it 54-30, then shared a laugh with her teammates at the foul line. She knew what was coming next.
“We’re going to play ball [against North Point]. And we’re going to prove that we’re the better team, and come out with the win,” Charles said. “I guess you can call that payback, or redemption, but we’re just going to play our game and its going to show.”