Eleanor Roosevelt Wins Fifth Straight 4A Championship

Eleanor Roosevelt celebrates the school's fifth straight 4A championship. Said Lacie Hall,
Eleanor Roosevelt celebrates the school's fifth straight 4A championship. Said Lacie Hall, "It was a relief to get it all done, and it felt great to get it done." (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 15, 2009

CATONSVILLE, Md., March 14 -- In her hand, Olivia Applewhite clutched an orange sports drink. In her arms, she held Lacie Hall. Together, the Eleanor Roosevelt seniors spun around in circles, over and over again, a spontaneous act that released a season's worth of pressure and celebrated a historic achievement.

By rolling to a 67-39 victory over No. 18 Blake yesterday at UMBC's RAC Arena, second-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt won its fifth straight Maryland 4A championship. Only Brooklyn Park has accomplished that feat, when it won the 1A championship from 1985 to 1989.

For the Raiders' seniors, the pursuit of that record created "a lot of pressure," Applewhite said, "because you don't want to be the class that loses. You have four straight championships for the school, and then you're a senior, and then you lose? That [would have been] lame."

With that mind-set, Eleanor Roosevelt rarely celebrated its wins this season, even in the playoffs. Only by claiming a piece of history could the Raiders achieve peace of mind.

"It was a relief to get it all done," Hall said, "and it felt great to get it done."

The Raiders (25-1) did it in their typical fashion, harassing an opponent with constant traps and outstretched arms, which obstructed passing lanes and created turnovers.

Their physical style left Blake (22-6) looking very much like Eleanor Roosevelt's jerseys -- black and blue. Early in the first quarter, Bengals senior Christine Weithman had her hand stepped on (the trainer said it was broken, but she kept playing), and in the third quarter, sophomore Justine Allen took an elbow to the nose while trying to trap one of the Raiders. (Her nose, too, was diagnosed as broken.)

As Eleanor Roosevelt flustered Blake's typically fast-paced attack, the Raiders scored with the balance befitting a team that has seven players either signed or committed to play in college. In the first half, seven different Raiders scored, though no individual had more than eight points as they took a 31-18 lead.

The Raiders built a 52-27 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bengals couldn't rally.

With his team leading by 30, and only 1 minute 14 seconds to play, Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rod Hairston called a timeout to take out the rest of his starters, and deliver a message to everyone.

"Okay, we can take a deep breath now," he told the Raiders. "Y'all can actually smile. And understand, you guys just made history."

No. 2 E. Roosevelt 67 No. 18 Blake 39 Ready for No. 6? Raiders junior Terah Mustaf could be a leading playmaker next season, as evidenced by her 10 points and five rebounds in the title game. Experience Lost: Blake loses only two seniors who played significant minutes, but they were the Bengals' leading scorers: Guard Danielle Douglas and Faye Dunston.

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