The Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders were shooting around before the second half of their game against Bowie on Friday night when an errant shot bounded off the back of the rim and out toward the top of the key. Nearby, sophomore Kaila Charles, junior Tolu Omokore and freshman Octavia Wilson stood empty-handed. As the ball bounced by them, the eyes of the Raiders’ three leading scorers converged, and all three charged after the ball at full speed, exchanging shoves and laughs before Wilson snuck away with the prize.
Those type of efforts — full-speed pursuits with fearless physicality — define the top-ranked Raiders’ stars as much as their talents. On a night when shots weren’t falling, offensive mistakes more common than normal, and Bowie’s resilience unrelenting, the extra effort of those three players and their teammates allowed Roosevelt to pull away for a 53-44 victory over the Bulldogs in Greenbelt, the last significant hurdle standing between the Raiders and a second straight undefeated regular season.
“Kaila and Tolu are the captains on the team, and they keep the girls hungry,” said Raiders Coach Delton Fuller. “Whatever we do, they’re always first and second. . . . Those two work really hard.”
Though Bowie was without its own star, Marshauna Butler, because of a sprained ankle, the Bulldogs (14-6, 11-4 Prince George’s 4A) turned in a pesky effort and seemed to elevate their play just when the Raiders were about to run away from them.
It took more than four minutes for Roosevelt (18-0, 15-0) to score its first basket, but high-pressure defense stalled Bowie’s attack, so that by the time the Raiders did finally get on the board midway through the first quarter, they tied the game at 2. With jump shooting failing them early, Omokore slashed and battled to turn rebounds into points, and was responsible for 12 of the Raiders’ first 14 points in that manner.
Charles struggled from the field early but channeled any frustration into a stifling defensive effort. With her normal outside points hard to come by, she turned defense into layups, particularly in a 12-point second half that helped distance the Raiders.
“They bring a lot of intensity,” said Wilson (13 points) of Charles and Omokore. “They make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
In addition to hitting a few big outside shots late, Wilson guided a handful of passes through crevices in the Bowie defense that hadn’t yet opened, earning oohs and aahs as she set up teammates for high-percentage shots. She, too, hustled her way to a steal or two, as did Allannah Baiyana, Alia Parker, and Daijah Davis, who each hit the floor for a loose ball or muscled their way to a rebound at crucial intervals.
“We just try to set a good example for everybody,” Charles said. “[Maximum effort] is what we practice. We practice game speed so we play game speed. We want to give 110 percent every play.”