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Raiders Continue Drive for 5

By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, March 13, 2009

CATONSVILLE, Md., March 12 -- Year after year, game after game, there are slight variations to Eleanor Roosevelt's experience at the state tournament, but the essentials stay the same -- the Raiders play "gutsy," as their coach puts it, and they win.

Thursday provided yet another example.

Despite not making a single field goal in the first quarter and trailing by 16 points, No. 2 Eleanor Roosevelt rallied to beat No. 7 Arundel, 47-43, in a Maryland 4A semifinal at UMBC's RAC Arena.

By winning the highly anticipated rematch of last year's state championship game, the Raiders (23-1) earned the chance to tie a Maryland record on Saturday, when they can claim their fifth straight title. Only Brooklyn Park has accomplished that feat, when it won the 1A championship each year from 1985 to 1989.

"We've gotta make history," said Eleanor Roosevelt senior Elashier Hall, who had a team-high 13 points. "This is our senior class. We helped all the other senior classes get it done. Now it's our turn to get it done."

The Raiders didn't do anything right early, as Arundel rolled to a 21-5 lead. But over the final 4 minutes 13 seconds of the first half, Eleanor Roosevelt went on an 11-2 run, cutting its deficit to 23-16 entering halftime.

More important, the Raiders turned the game toward their preferred style of play -- physical, and for the opponent, frustrating. It's a style the Raiders have developed -- and thrived on -- because of their location.

"What helps us, what helps our ability to play in tough games, is Prince George's County," Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rod Hairston said. "We beat each other up on a regular basis. So we're in those kinds of games, for the most part, all the time."

In the third quarter, the Raiders forced Arundel's two centers -- 6-foot-3 senior Simone Egwu and 6-5 junior Sheronne Vails -- to commit their fourth fouls, and the Raiders built a 33-27 lead with the help of two three-pointers from junior Keiona Revis.

Arundel (22-5) responded early in the fourth quarter and managed to take a 38-37 lead on Talen Watson's jumper with 4:35 remaining.

But that's when Eleanor Roosevelt put the ball in the hands of senior Noel Bullock, who earned the nickname "Big Shot Bullock" in last year's title game when she made a three-pointer from the corner to spark the Raiders' last-minute comeback.

Standing in the same spot this year, Bullock swished her only three of the night to put Eleanor Roosevelt back into the lead. It never trailed again.

"All season," Bullock said, "my coaches have been telling me to keep shooting the ball; it's going to fall. Even when you're not on, keep shooting the ball. We weren't going to lose, so I just let it go."

No. 2 Eleanor Roosevelt 47 No. 7 Arundel 43 Up Next: The Raiders advance to tomorrow's 3 p.m. 4A state final, where they will play 18th-ranked Blake. Can't Hold It: Eleanor Roosevelt's pressure defense wore down Arundel in the final minutes, forcing turnovers on several key possessions. Arundel finished with 26 turnovers, compared with 12 for the Raiders.

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