Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Roderick Hairston acknowledged that he was getting worried. His girls' basketball team had lost all four games against the Prince George's 4A League's top three teams -- twice to Oxon Hill and once each against Suitland and Largo -- before last Friday.
A 63-51 victory for the Raiders against Largo, however, allayed some of Hairston's concerns.
"It would have been devastating for us if we went into the playoffs without beating any of those three teams. We wouldn't have had any confidence," he said. "But now that we beat Largo, we know we have what it takes to beat one of the top teams in our league. We know what kind of effort we have to give. This was one of the biggest wins of our season."
The victory improved the Raiders' record to 13-5, which matches the team's win total from last season. Eleanor Roosevelt also improved to 10-5 in Prince George's 4A League play and entered the week a game behind Largo for the third seed in the 4A South Region tournament.
Against Largo, Eleanor Roosevelt junior forward Andrea Wright scored a career-high 21 points to go along with 16 rebounds. The win was the Raiders' first over a team with a winning record since Dec. 28, when they defeated Riverdale Baptist to win the IAABO tournament.
"Without question, [the win vs. Largo] was our biggest victory of the season, and Andrea really played her best game of the season," Hairston said. "And that's the way we need her to play the rest of the season, and she's capable of making those kinds of contributions for us every game."
Two hours before school begins at Fairmont Heights each day, sophomore point guard Wesley Sweet can be found in the gymnasium going through drills. Sweet works on his dribbling, footwork and jump shot.
"I try to shoot 1,000 jump shots a day," said Sweet, who has made 49 three-pointers this season. "I spend every morning working on my game. I'm just trying to get better."
Hornets Coach George Wake said: "Wesley has gotten so much better since the season began. He's done the work and made the sacrifices to improve his game."
And Sweet has keyed a resurgence for Fairmont Heights, which opened the season 6-5 but had won six of its past seven games entering this week.
"The players on our team were not trusting each other a month ago," Wake said. "They would see [one of their teammates] take 12 shots and score 15 points, and then they'd be jealous because they would have only taken three shots."
The Hornets now have four players averaging in double figures -- junior forward Keith Edmonds (17.8 points) and Sweet (14.6) lead the way -- and are the league's most improved team during the past six weeks.
"They are 100 percent better from the last time we played them," said Gwynn Park Coach Steve Matthews, whose team lost to the Hornets, 85-82, on Feb. 13 after winning by 12 in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 7. "They are playing so much more as a team, and they are one of the most physical teams we've played this season."
Falcons' Boys on Upswing
After advancing to its eighth consecutive 2A South Region final last year, the play of the Central boys' basketball team the past two weeks has shown the Falcons may be poised to continue their streak.
The Falcons entered the week having won five of their past seven games to improve to 11-8 overall and 9-7 in the Prince George's 3A/2A/1A League. The Falcons peaked around this time last year, when Central closed the regular season by winning six of its final seven regular season games. The Falcons then won four consecutive playoff games to reach the Maryland 2A final.
Though just one starter returned this season -- senior guard Chris Henderson (15.2 points) -- the Falcons have been buoyed by the double-figure scoring contributions of senior guard Jamar Spruill, senior forward Ochenna Nwokorie and senior guard Terrence Norris.
"This team is a lot different than last year," said Central first-year coach Brian Taylor, an assistant last season. "I thought we would have won a few more games this year, but we haven't closed some games out. But since we've lost some games, we know how hard we have to play to win, and I think this team has what it takes to make it back to the state tournament."